Crispin Porter + Bogusky is Responsible for Those Horrible Groupon Super Bowl Ads

Categories: Media Watch
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Ever since Burger King decided to dial down their advertising, it's been a while since local advertising hot house Crispin Porter + Bogusky has had an ad generate much controversy. But the firm, for better or worse, returned to eyebrow-raising form last night with ads for the deal website Groupon. The series of ads which poke fun at, of all things, the idea of charity seem to be the most hated ads aired during the Super Bowl.

Groupon rolled out a series of three commercials last night. Two aired during the game while a third aired during post-game coverage. The most controversial featured Academy Award winning actor Timothy Hutton espousing on the plight of the people of Tibet before hawking the idea of buying deals on dining out at Tibetan curry restaurants on Groupon. Similar ads with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Elizabeth Hurley poking fun at endangered whales and rain forest conservancy also aired.



The overall effect is "Yes, there's serious problems in the world, but who cares when yuppie Americans can save a few bucks on yuppie things? Yay buying things!"

Groupon offers daily deals in various cities across America on things like spa treatments and meals. Though the deals are only good if enough people buy it. The site already has a dedicated user base, but apparently was reaching for bigger exposure with a Super Bowl campaign. Crispin Porter + Bogusky delivered, but maybe not in the best way.

According to Boston.com's Brand Bowl 2011 the Groupon ad was the third most tweeted about during the game, but by far got the most negative reaction of any ad broadcast.

The website set up for the "Save the Money" campaign features links to donate to charities affiliated with the various issues parodied, which means perhaps their intentions weren't so bad. Yet, the URL for that specific idea or the idea of donating to the actual charities weren't mentioned at all in the ads.

What do you think? For a company trying to make its first big foray into traditional advertising and mass awareness did CP+B totally screw up by associating the brand with unnecessary controversy, or is this an "all press is good press" situation that at least got people talking about a website they may not have even been aware of before?

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28 comments
Jody F
Jody F

If Hutton spoke of Domestic Violence Abuse against women and then pitched a discount at a kick boxing class would the same people laugh?

If Cuba Gooding Jr. showed foreclosed families living in tents and then pitched a deal on tents at the Sports Authority would the same people laugh?

If they would, then then they're incredibly spoiled, with no sense of empathy or compassion. Schadenfreude or not, hocking a product on the back of anothers misery is callous. And throwing up a lame charitable contribution as a mea culpa doesn't make up for the millions wasted to make a base humor joke.

DNIYM
DNIYM

I think its hilarious. LIGHTEN UP PEOPLE or light up if you don't know how.

Byron101
Byron101

I will never use groupon. What a sad and desperate attempt to get attention. I don't know one person that likes these ads. In fact, I've heard several people say they will never use groupon because of these ads. Elizabeth Hurley? They must be desperate if they are using an old women like her in a sad attempt at looking sexy.

mark
mark

That ad is disgusting. That routine might work for a nice, cynical standup routine, but it sure doesn't cut it in reality. Groupon is clearly getting real cocky. I shall now look forward to their inevitable downfall (their business model has almost no barriers to entry).

Linked Media Group, Inc.
Linked Media Group, Inc.

Really bad distasteful ad, especially when you consider lots of young kids watching the SuperBowl. They ought to fire C+P+(MIA)B and hire an agency that would help them develop a brand consistent with their roots. In the end, is all publicity? DTS in this case - the negative blow back is pretty fierce and it certainly didn't motivate anyone to use their services. If they were "listening" to social media they should be pushing out a message today (one day after SB) that addresses the firestorm with something positive and uplifting.

C.A.
C.A.

What about the rainforest one? Especially with all the "green" stuff going on...hmm...

patriotaxe
patriotaxe

What a sad excuse for a TV spot, Superbowl appearance or otherwise. I cancelled my GroupOn membership this morning and told them why.

The Chrysler "Born of Fire" spot with Eminem - THAT was a good spot, CPB. You should try doing one some time.

(Full Disclosure - the voice track for the Chrysler spot was laid down in my city, by two people I know and respect. Great work, Stuart and Kevin, great work.)

megamelfina
megamelfina

I think a lot of people are going to be trying to avoid Groupon now. There are plenty of other daily deal and group buying sites out there to use that aren't offensive.

A great site to use to find sales and deals in your area is http://www.dailydealpool.com. They'll email you daily with a list of the best buys in your area and online, ensuring you won't miss out!

Ragallo
Ragallo

Don't you just love all those Groupon and Crispin Porter ad agency employees scrambling to these website stories so they can post comments congratulating themselves for their stupidity?

bdubsy
bdubsy

No wonder everyone hates Americans.

E!
E!

Did CP+B totally screw up by associating the brand with unnecessary controversy? Yes. What a useless question. Here's a better one: If CP+B had chosen to piggyback their un-humorous #Groupon pitch on a local tragedy (Katrina aftermath, September 11th, Innocents freed from incarceration after DNA review - there are so many) would the trade press finally describe the public outrage as something more than "eyebrow-raising"?

Shark jumper
Shark jumper

The ad is both stupid and offensive in three key ways. 1) Tibetan cuisine uses very little fish (um, landlocked mountains???) and no curry. 2) It totally pisses off the Chinese, with whom Groupon is likely trying to enter the market, with the setup that Tibetan culture is in trouble, 3) Like CP+B's equally offensive Whopper Virgins, it perpetuates that Ugly American attitude that other cultures are there to be mocked at least, exploited at best. Someone get these fratboys some passports and a clue.

Pinggers
Pinggers

I believe the guys at Groupon were trying to get some extra media attention to their commercial and brand. As these guys pointed out: http://bit.ly/glJWR4 that's why, perhaps, they attempted to do a controversial pice that would be shown around everywhere. The move clearly backfired, since the commercial wasn't even fun, or smart. It didn't even create awareness on the situation in Tibet. It just pissed people off.

HJP
HJP

Who came up with the idea of mocking the plight of Tibet, the Rain Forest or whales? And then, what senseless fool approved these ideas? It's not only the agency at fault; the client shares the blame.

And, there is so very much blame to share. Offensive idiots all!

blahhh
blahhh

Horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE ad. A slap in the face to Tibet and it's culture, there's no humor or endearment in this ad what so ever. Seems like something only the narcissistic, cynical, and overprivileged would enjoy, the ad and the ridiculous "groupon" itself. Shame on everyone who approved such a TASTELESS idea.

TerryMowery
TerryMowery

What do you think the Chinese Government is going to react? Groupon is trying to get started in China.

Forget the offensive nature of these commercials. As a practical business decision: Did you really want to antagonize the Chinese dictators?

E!
E!

It seems the Chinese government's attitude toward Tibet is similar to the "why bother" attitude projected in the Groupon/Hutton ad.

Cosmicdancer
Cosmicdancer

That charity page you mentioned indeed seemed like an afterthought, when the company only bothered to disseminate the link after the social media uproar had started. Also, it's worth pointing out that the company only offers to MATCH donations - not donate anything outright - and only up to $100k per charity. Consider that the ad cost $3 million, and it seems a lot less noble. Also, when you donate $15, you get a Groupon credit of $15 -- but most Groupon subscribers will note that Groupons rarely cost $15 or less.... so you'll end up having to spend more money on the site. More profit for them on the backs of small businesses!

I know Groupon started as a charitable thing, the Point, so I'm sure there is good intention behind this, somewhere ... but this was terrible execution. I blame Crispin Porter for continuing to create ads for the most cynical and privileged among us (I am so glad I do not share the world view of the creatives there!), and I blame whoever at Groupon hired them and approved the final spots.

aly
aly

I still don't know why they're called Crispin Porter + Bogusky when in fact they're Crispin Porter - Bogusky (didn't he quit advertising some time ago?).

tessastewart
tessastewart

Pretty sure David Ogilvy isn't at Ogilvy any longer. Or Leo Burnett is not working at Leo Burnett.

None
None

none of them are on the cpb payroll anymore.

jerryb
jerryb

With out a doubt "THE" best commercial all night! Loved Timothy Hutton pitching the ad.

Insider
Insider

You must be responsible for it, or the competition is that poor....

Bianchifreeza
Bianchifreeza

Dewd, I'm not sure what you consider yourself an "insider" on, but I can tell you it's part of a far less valuable demographic than the people who found this ad series hilarious. People who find black humour appealing (and the segment whose pleasure is whetted /b/ degrees of schadenfreude) are likely correlated with three characteristics:

1) Younger than the median American.2) A more frequent user of the internet than young people who didn't find this funny.3) Someone who has already heard of Groupon.

The ad is supposed to be a trigger. A person who knows what Groupon is probably heard it described as any another internet community, and knows that there's some time required to break habit and join a whole new site. Put it all together and: X% young, Y% internet-savvy, Z% Coen-movie-torrenter sees an ad that pokes some sacred cows (into thukpa!) and feels pandered to because of it. This ad wasn't meant to explain Groupon, it was to get these people to actually google "Groupon" and click on it.

This is all conjecture based on my impressions of the internets I live in, and is probably influenced by the fact this is the first time that Groupon has been granted audience in my tabs. But then again, to think the ad agency hasn't gone way beyond this type of conjecture seems a little naive. They probably are so far beyond Meyers-Briggs tests and crap like that, where do you think all those annoying majors go after college?

Point is, it was great, and I feel like it's obvious how this is beneficial and doesn't really turn away many people they care about.

NorCal watsup.

Steverino
Steverino

I'm in the business bianichi, at a big sf based shop w a global reputation and those spots were stupid and tasteless.

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