Super Bowl ads are always good for a tweet or two—or thousands, it turns out, if you are Groupon and it’s your very first time at the grown-up’s table. Perhaps somebody should have told Groupon that what you pay all that money for when it comes to Super Bowl advertising is a guarantee of attention, and that you really don’t have to go out of your way to denigrate an entire culture in order to get it.
This year’s Super Bowl was a $3 million opportunity to move people closer to the Groupon brand. Whoops! Perhaps they needed one of those reverse-beeping systems that are on garbage trucks to warn corporate headquarters that some folks might want to back up at the offensiveness of highlighting the heart-wrenching plight of the Tibetans and then assuring everyone that it is okay because we’re still able to get those nice Tibetans to make us an amazing fish curry, and get it at a cheap price.
It is hard to imagine that this advertising went through any serious testing before being aired, not only because of its obvious insensitivity—so overwhelming that Groupon has pulled the ads and issued a CEO apology—but because they come out of an agency that has gone on the record for being against the quantitative testing of advertising. It seems there were even more of these ads made, making light of the rainforest devastation and whale hunting. Clearly there simply wasn’t enough time to respond with one to demonstrate the hilarious connection between the terrors in Bahrain and half-price baba ghanoush.
Our own research before the Super Bowl on the potential lift in engagement that the Super Bowl would most offer for the brands advertising, showed Groupon with the most to gain, in the number one spot tied with Skechers—if the ad they ran had been tested and shown to be a fundamentally good ad: not according to agency creatives, but to the people who actually give Groupon employees a reason to get up in the morning.
As researchers that specialize in helping pinpoint the places for agencies to work their creative magic to get the most benefit for the brands that pay them, we hope that Groupon has learned it’s actually not just about getting your name in the paper. In today’s consumer-in-charge market place, where the character of a brand counts at every-increasing levels in the buying decision, there is always another discount group to join. Remember, in this brand-consumer game, the team that always wins is the consumer.