Epic Fails Of Super Sunday: Groupon and Pepsi Max Fumble

By Arturo R. García

It didn’t take long for Groupon to bust out the “quirkyness” defense after its’ Super Bowl ad campaign went over like the Black Eyed Peas’ halftime show. But the company has only itself to blame. Video and transcript of the ad in question are under the cut.

To recap: the spot – the second of three Groupon aired throughout the day – used the oppression faced by the people of Tibet as the set-up for a colossally tone-deaf joke of a pitch featuring actor Timothy Hutton.

Here’s the script:

Mountainous Tibet – one of the most beautiful places in the world. This is Timothy Hutton. The people of Tibet are in trouble, their very culture in jeopardy. But they still whip up an amazing fish curry. And since 200 of us bought on Groupon.com we’re getting $30 worth of Tibetan food for just $15 at Himalayan Restaurant in Chicago.

A post on Groupon’s “serious” blog said the company chose Crispin Porter + Bogusky because their pitch that appealed to its’ “peculiar” sense of humor.

Unfortunately, the joke has been on Groupon since the spot aired. The response online has been quick and brutal, on Twitter and beyond. Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb summed up the case for why the spot fell flat:

It was an attempt at post-serious humor – but most people with common sense agree that the struggles of Tibet still deserve respect and seriousness. The joke is on anyone who really cares. It came across as the kind of out-of-touch humor that overprivileged, spiritually mean, advertising industry creatives (specifically, the kind that kids refer to as “douchebags”) would come up with.

Sunday night, the company tweeted a link to its’ “Save The Money” campaign, which provides the context the commercial was sorely lacking, with the ability for people to donate to The Tibet Fund. But what Groupon doesn’t seem to understand is, the ad doesn’t reflect the company’s efforts in any way – the campaign’s website wasn’t even displayed during the spot. The big brains at Crispin Porter + Bogusky were so busy being ironic, they didn’t think of writing a line for Hutton that could have tied it all together: The people of Tibet are in trouble, their very culture in jeopardy. But, if you sign up with Groupon.com, you can help them survive – and save a little money, too.

Vivek Kunwar, one of Himalayan’s co-owners, told CNN the commercial was “an ‘uh-oh’ moment”:

“It came out the opposite of what they were hoping for,” the co-owner said.

Kunwar said the advertisement was not filmed in their restaurant but on a set.

“From our part, we hope people realize it was not us,” Kunwar said.

“We participated because we liked the cause. (Groupon) should’ve considered the sensitivity of the matter,” Kunwar said Groupon has not reached out to the Himalayan Restaurant since the commercial aired.

“Nobody has called me but I definitely do want to talk to their people and ask them what they were thinking,” he told CNN.

“It makes Groupon look bad, it makes us look bad and it was not the way it should’ve been done.”

Kunwar said he expects the three-restaurant chain will receive complaints, and he is concerned about future business.

Tibetans and Chinese in their community may “be a little unhappy with it,” he said.

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Even though Groupon was the most prominent offender, let’s not forget this number from Pepsi Max:

One has got to say this: that’s an impressive amount of stereotyping to cram into 30 seconds.

As for that halftime show … well, if you’ve got a few minutes, maybe this can help chase those memories away: