February 7, 2011

Groupon Super Bowl Ad: When Being Clever Offends and How to Win One for Tibet

published this at 8:52 am

Clever Only Works When Trust Is Around

cooltext443809437_relationships

It must be a hugely stressful and exciting opportunity to find your startup with a slot for a commercial at the Super Bowl. Who wouldn’t want to make a fabulous debut? Can you imagine the meetings that must have been to plan that Groupon ad? Bet it was fun exciting and filled with clever ideas … all meant to go for the win!

By now you’ve heard of or seen the unfortunate Groupon Super Bowl ad that came from the meetings I just described:


Given the human rights crisis in Tibet, it’s not hard to see the response wouldn’t be good. To say it offended people is less than what happened. From Twitter to China, from CNN to Forbes to their own hometown Chicago Tribune the reaction wasn’t good.

CNN International: Super Bowl ad featuring Tibet triggers angry reaction in China
Forbes: Groupon’s 2-For-1 Super Bowl Special: Offend Both China And Tibet Activists
Digital Trends: Groupon’s Tibet Super Bowl ad offends everyone
Deal Book: Did Groupon Cross the Line in Super Bowl Ad Debut?
Chicago Tribune: Groupon Tibet Super Bowl TV ad discounts taste, sensitivity

Clever isn’t clever when it offends.

The problem with clever ideas is that they are a social thing. Clever only works where trust already exists. Clever is risky because it gets us looking at ourselves not the people we’re talking to. Clever backfires completely in a venue or a community where people don’t know us yet. Groupon found out what happens when we try clever without a firm foundation of trust in the mix.

Now, Groupon has problem. What would you do?

Reframing the Problem

The way you frame a problem is what keeps it a problem. This problem can so easily be a huge opportunity. Groupon has been in the social business world long enough to see the outstanding examples of companies who tried to apologize without apologizing and those who have owned their mistakes and won back the trust of the their core fan group instantly.

Here are five well known social media apologies …
Dell’s 23 Confessions
A Commitment On Edelman and Wal-Mart
JetBlue Launches Cross-Media Apology Campaign
Turner Broadcasting Apology Letter
Motrin

Those that worked were those that resonated started from a place of trust and rebuilding trust relationships. If you find yourself where Groupon is, start with these two tenets of connecting in honesty.

  1. Step away from the the clever and open up. Send out an actual human being to talk with your customers. They’re your heroes.
  2. Lead with trust. Trust the human being you send, trust your customers, and give people every reason to trust you. Trust is the currency of relationships.

With that mindset, a clear plan of action toward apologizing early and often is the only way to answer the hugely negative response to their ads.

The Action Plan

What would I advise the Groupon team to do? Realize that the relationships they’ve built have been based on price, not loyalty. Understand that the breach was something like

“If you could make fun of something as serious as that, would also make fun of anything, everything, that’s important to me?”

Here’s an action plan to begin a new kind of relationship and to rebuild what’s been lost by the ad.

A company admits the error and shows they mean it with everyone watching could make difference in a huge way. Here’s a chance to turn critics into heroes and to use the momentum to make something truly good happen.

Groupon has a huge opportunity to bring visibility and real action to the crisis in Tibet.

This could be a win for the world, if Groupon wants to make it that.

Got more ideas for how Groupon might recover from this?

–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!

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Filed under Community, Marketing /Sales / Social Media, Successful Blog | 88 Comments »


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88 Comments to “Groupon Super Bowl Ad: When Being Clever Offends and How to Win One for Tibet”

  1. February 7th, 2011 at 9:00 am
    Frank Reed said

    Honestly, Liz, I just decided to unsubscribe. In the daily deal space there are many other options like Living Social so in this ‘hurry up’ world there is less time to sit and wait for a Groupon ‘apology’ (which will just be an attempt to save business), then determine if it’s sincere etc etc.

    Sounds unforgiving, I suppose, but I have options and Groupon is not critical to me so it’s quicker and more efficient to move on.

    Honestly, in the end I don’t think Groupon will be hurt badly by this because the vast majority of the people outside of our insular social media circles either missed it completely or simply don’t care.

    All I could do was cast my vote, which was to unsubscribe and move on. No ill will but just talking about this ‘error’ was not enough so I just cast my ‘no thanks’ vote and will call it a day.

    Thanks for examining the process like you have.

  2. February 7th, 2011 at 9:17 am
    Groupon’s Flop: When Cause Marketing Goes Horribly Wrong said

    [...] working passionately on those cause – indeed, risking their lives to change the world.  As Liz Strauss notes in an excellent post: “Clever isn’t clever when it [...]

  3. February 7th, 2011 at 9:18 am
    Erin McMahon said

    Great analysis and ideas for Groupon.

    I’d like to see them donate an amount equal to whatever they spent on their ads. A pricey apology? Perhaps, but it was a pricey mistake, in more ways than one.

  4. February 7th, 2011 at 9:18 am
    John Rougeux said

    Groupon’s ad is so offensive because it assumes our interest in saving some money on dining out far exceeds our care for human rights. Groupon could go a long way towards rectifying the imbalance by offering a cause-related Groupon – something like matching every dollar donated to a Tibet-related NGO.

  5. February 7th, 2011 at 9:22 am
    Alice Errett said

    Well written’ couldn’t agree more.
    Everybody screws up; it’s what happens next that sets the course for the company.

    Groupon has the opportunity to do the right thing; let’s see if they seize it.

    Thanks for the excellent recovery strategy. I hope Groupon sees it!

  6. February 7th, 2011 at 9:27 am
    JB said

    How about they donate the $3 MILLION they spent on the ad, instead of expecting their customers to donate retroactively?

    So *I* should donate because YOU were a jerk on national TV? Don’t think so.

  7. February 7th, 2011 at 9:30 am
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Frank!
    Much like Motrin, I don’t expect that Groupon will suffer long-term effects from this, unless they don’t learn what they might from the experience and do something similar. I understand how you cast your vote and I can see why you did. It’s more likely to happen in a model like Groupon’s where the “hook” isn’t a relationship, but a bargain. We don’t feel much loyalty when the connection is price.

  8. February 7th, 2011 at 9:32 am
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Erin!
    Great idea! That would say a lot! … especially if they revealed the number.

  9. February 7th, 2011 at 9:37 am
    Kami Huyse said

    Hey Liz;

    Before I knew that Groupon wrote pithy ads, I was once offended by one of their ads for a local theater company. One of my friends knew my kids loved theater and forwarded me the discount for a workshop. Some of the text in the email turned me off to the theater company. I even kept the email:

    “Prepare your proto-adult for later-life triumphs such as winning an Oscar or fast-talking their way out of a questionable real estate deal with [name redacted] Lower Primary or Upper Primary programs.”

    I felt that if the drama company was this crass I didn’t want them teaching my kids. Later, I learned that this was their style and I softened a bit.

    Same with the ad, they exposed themselves to a much bigger audience that doesn’t get that they are clever in all of their ads, it is their corporate personality.

    This is no different than the Kenneth Cole Tweet last week that he later deleted reading:

    “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo-KC

    Same ridiculous humor, same propensity to believe people will get “where you are coming from” and understand the “joke.”

  10. February 7th, 2011 at 9:39 am
    donna said

    Call me crazy but i think the bigger lesson here is avoiding tunnel-vision. Who hasn’t been so involved in a ‘great idea’ that they don’t send it out for fresh air to see if it stands the test. It’s takes an error like Groupon’s ad to remind me of that, so thanks!

  11. February 7th, 2011 at 9:39 am
    donna said

    Call me crazy but i think the bigger lesson here is avoiding tunnel-vision. Who hasn’t been so involved in a ‘great idea’ that they don’t send it out for fresh air to see if it stands the test. It’s takes an error like Groupon’s ad to remind me of that, so thanks!

  12. February 7th, 2011 at 9:43 am
    Jason Reynolds said

    This is a great post Liz and some serious nuggets of wisdom in here. But isn’t it odd the things people get upset about? I wasn’t upset with this ad in the least. It even made me question what was going on in Tibet enough to go look it up (yep, I sometimes end up playing the role of an ignorant American).

    The ad that offended me and tens of thousands of conservatives was the Living Social ad with the cross-dresser. My daughters were watching the Superbowl with us, and the ad looked like one I could trust to let my little girls watch. Next thing I know there is a man dressed like a woman and my four and six year old daughters were asking the specifics about Transvestism. Some would say to me to just get over it and not take things so seriously, which is how I felt about the Groupon ad.

    My point is, advertising is reaching these days to get the attention of people who are otherwise consumed with life and Social Media. My perspective on the Superbowl, from GoDaddy ads to these was that agencies are going more and more extreme to get our attention. This seems to be a slippery slope and offends the senses more than it encourages us to buy or participate. Contrast those “Bigger is better” commercials with simple, story-based ones like VW put out with the Darth Vader and Beetle commercials. It’s clear that what we want is to be entertained with something we relate with personally.

  13. February 7th, 2011 at 9:46 am
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi John,
    They spent millions on that ad with an agency that should have known the flaws. I see hubrus in thinking their point of view was the only one. Both the agency and Groupon didn’t think about the people in the audience. Here’s the story of the ad from their blog. http://www.groupon.com/blog/cities/groupon-super-bowl-ads/

  14. February 7th, 2011 at 9:53 am
    Jeannie Walters said

    Liz -
    This is an excellent analysis and I love your recommendations. When we saw it, we really looked at each other in shock and disbelief. It seemed so out of character for the Groupon we know.
    I immediately thought that whoever was leading the creative direction of this ad had “jumped the shark” of what Groupon represents. It really struck me that instead of being in touch with their population and customers, they were sitting in those early meetings, cracking themselves up after too many hours inside, and quickly losing touch with reality. How did Timothy Hutton sign on to do this? That’s a shame.
    I hope Groupon takes your advice!

  15. February 7th, 2011 at 9:55 am
    Whitney said

    This is definitely a Kenneth Cole kind of thing- People are miserable all over the world, but you can concentrate on your purely simple consumer needs here at home!

    It’s their ad firm that’s tone deaf, and hopefully this will get them to understand better for the future- one can only hope.

  16. February 7th, 2011 at 9:57 am
    Becky Cortino said

    Great advice and insight, Liz. Think regaining trust is going to add to Groupon’s promotional campaign, for now… it appears they’re getting reaction.This is an opp for a turnaround, but trust is not easily restored when a wound is undiscerningly inflicted.

  17. February 7th, 2011 at 10:29 am
    Baron said

    Well first off they should start opening up their blog. As of right now they are closing/censoring any dissent from their own blog which just sends the wrong message of culpability.

    Second, their excuse that these ads were suppose to somehow raise awareness and money to these causes is a joke. So far only ~70 have donated to the Tibetan Fund for a total of just over $1000. What Groupon needs to do is come out and just donate $500,000 straight away and not wait to match donations.

  18. February 7th, 2011 at 10:38 am
    Joe Sorge said

    Liz,
    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this very sensitive topic. I’m very eager to see what comes of this as part of “damage control” and what the net effect may actually be to Groupon. VERY curious. Really appreciate you drawing my attention to it in this way.
    Joe

  19. February 7th, 2011 at 10:55 am
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Alice!
    Well said, yep, it’s all in what happens next. I’m hoping that they get it right too! I love when folks come out a winner!

  20. February 7th, 2011 at 11:00 am
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Chris!
    In their place, I’d be looking for how to fix what’s gone wrong. In my place, if I can see that, sharing it is the least I can do. Social media is a powerful way to respond … and here’s a powerful way to prove that.

    So good to see you!

  21. February 7th, 2011 at 11:04 am
    Groupon’s Super Bowl Advertising Disaster | The Bivings Report said

    [...] Groupon: When Being Clever Offends and How to Win One for Tibet- By Liz Strauss [...]

  22. February 7th, 2011 at 11:08 am
    not a good start said

    Groupon rep says traditional charity efforts “connive us into doing good.” http://www.groupon.com/community/discussion/2858/topics/120921

  23. February 7th, 2011 at 11:08 am
    Lori Luza said

    I agree that their angle stems from their “voice” and humor style that is in their deals. In that way (and some others), they are very true to their brand. I think they just got lost in their brand’s personality and forgot that the purpose is to attract NEW customers who aren’t already familiar with their humor/spin. It’s a costly mistake on their end.

  24. February 7th, 2011 at 11:12 am
    Chris Johnson said

    A couple takeaways: I don’t have a major problem with this ad. Rather, I don’t have a major problem with the PROCESS behind this ad. It was a swing and a miss, but it was edgy etc.

  25. February 7th, 2011 at 11:19 am
    Natalie said

    Great analysis Liz. I wasn’t privy to the US ads being based over here in Argentina so it was fascinating to find this out from you and read your suggestions and recommendations.

    I like the idea of crowdsourcing and voting on an ad that should have been played – although they’d have to be careful that doesn’t look like just being lazy.

    Also I’d suggest given their value Groupon could donate a lot more than $10K to move on from this disaster.

    Natalie

  26. February 7th, 2011 at 11:23 am
    Mike Jensen said

    Great article Liz, and appreciate the take offering some solutions instead of bagging on them completely. Just wondering if they even tested this commercial. Also makes me curious when companies spend that much money, is there a plan B commercial? Do they create other options to test? With the Super Bowl spot, and with that much star power I wonder if they hit a point of no return. Interesting.

  27. February 7th, 2011 at 11:29 am
    Jimbo said

    Ever consider that the ad, and the following one with Elizabeth Hurley, are satire? Would we be talking about the crisis in Tibet today if GroupOn’s ad had been a call to action, in a word: no. The “despicable” nature of the ad fosters dialogue.

    The problem with using satire is the assumption that people will realize it is satire.

  28. February 7th, 2011 at 11:31 am
    HEY WHIPPLE » Blog Archive » USA Today’s Ad-Meter: Man, That’s One Big-Ass Focus Group. said

    [...] like seeing Crispin tank with that bad Groupon spot, but c’mon guys, you shoulda seen that one misfiring from miles [...]

  29. February 7th, 2011 at 12:03 pm
    Jason Reynolds said

    Thinking about this again, GROUPON should have already posted a comment on this blog since it has influence within Social Media. Their Social Listening teams should have picked up on the conversation, the sentiment, and engaged with their side of the story. I think we have come to expect that from digital companies… that they “get it” from a Social CRM perspective.

  30. February 7th, 2011 at 12:34 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi JB,
    I see what you’re saying. It is an interesting point that you make … we should donate because we feel bad about their fail …

  31. February 7th, 2011 at 12:37 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hey Kami,
    Yeah, the problem in that thinking you describe is the expectation that I should understand them when they take no time or worry to understand me … then, they’re surprised when it backfires.

  32. February 7th, 2011 at 12:39 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Donna,
    Apparently it was our responsibility to “get” that they’re edgy … and we didn’t.
    Tunnel vision for sure.

  33. February 7th, 2011 at 12:43 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Jeannie!
    It takes a really light hand to play satire to a mass audience and it was an unnecessary and rude choice to pick such a serious cause. I keep wondering … where there no grownups around … no one who’d made this sort of mistake before? This is exactly the same error that Motrin made.

  34. February 7th, 2011 at 12:46 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Whitney,
    Great to see you! Tone deaf is such a great description. Is this what happens when we forget that values are part of the value proposition?

  35. February 7th, 2011 at 12:48 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Becky,
    Some of the best relationships grow from solving an initial problem … hope this is one that works out that way.

  36. February 7th, 2011 at 12:50 pm
    Gina said

    Great suggestions, Liz – I hope that Groupon has their big listening ears on today because a lot of people, like you, are trying to help them get out of this mess.

    One of the points you mentioned may have been overlooked by their agency and that’s around loyalty and trust. The fact is, there are so many promotion companies coming online weekly, along with the nature of their product, it’s hard to develop loyalty. Brand advocates in this space may not be loyal, but still want their friends to save a buck or two.

    Like you, I think they’re going to come out of this with minor scrapes and bruises, but I’m looking forward to see how they’ll handle it.

  37. February 7th, 2011 at 12:50 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Baron,
    Great points all.
    And what it was “supposed to do” doesn’t matter, what it did does … what it did didn’t work at all.

    I like your suggestions.

  38. February 7th, 2011 at 12:52 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Yeah, Joe,
    I think we’re all interested in seeing where this goes.

  39. February 7th, 2011 at 12:56 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Lori,
    Basically, they forgot that not everyone knows how cool they are and got reminded.

  40. February 7th, 2011 at 12:59 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Chris,
    I disagree. I believe that whenever you put yourself above your audience your process is off.

  41. February 7th, 2011 at 1:01 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Natalie,
    I’m hoping they do something. I’d hate to see this fall further down. I like your level suggestions about it all.

  42. February 7th, 2011 at 1:03 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Mike,
    Can’t help wondering if all of the recent “golden company” press played into this … I can’t help thinking they were sure it would win hands down.

  43. February 7th, 2011 at 1:05 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Jimbo,
    It’s not satire if no one sees the satire and everyone only sees the “mean.”
    The dialogue I’ve been hearing hasn’t been to rush to help Tibet, but more to watch to see how Groupon will respond to their error in judgment.

  44. February 7th, 2011 at 1:10 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Jason,
    I agree … especially since we’re both in Chicago.

  45. February 7th, 2011 at 1:13 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Gina!
    Yeah, I’d love to see them become the best case study for doing it right when something goes wrong. Here’s hoping!

  46. February 7th, 2011 at 1:37 pm
    @pbarbanes said

    Liz – There’s not just the one disrespectful – I’m sorry…”edgy”.. ad, there’s three. With another coming soon. Can’t wait.

    There is a “discussion” on the Groupon site – it’s just buried in their site a bit here http://gr.pn/hiW8YK

    It’s filled with mostly negative comments, with no “discussion” at all from Groupon, just comments from others

    Strike 1 for Groupon’s listening skills.

    The Groupon staff member leads off the discussion, though, not with any apology or even recognition of any offense or disrespect, but with this:

    “Welcome, and please join Groupon to save the money. Every day, disadvantaged charities are forced to bombard us with emotional manipulation, sidewalk-obstructing volunteers, and binders filled with mathematical models and compelling photographs that connive us into doing good. Groupon makes it easy to save the money, and now, we’re making it easy to give to other worthy causes, too.”

    That was posted about 3 hours ago, well after much of the negative reaction to the commercials had surfaced. So it looks like Groupon would rather dig in than dig out. They seem to taking the advice of someone else who is tone deaf, who said, “Don’t retreat – reload.”

    Strike two.

    The Mission statement of the advertising agency (Crispin Porter + Bogusky) that represented them for these ads is “To produce the most talked about, written about advertising in the world.”

    Too bad “respectful” isn’t in there.

    Strike 3. By talking about these ads, I’m helping fulfill that soulless mission.

    So don’t hold your breath expecting Groupon to do damage control. And, anyway, why bother? Like BP in the Gulf oil tragedy, they don’t deserve your help in “fixing” their message. They need a higher power’s help fixing their hearts.

  47. February 7th, 2011 at 2:03 pm
    Gregory Anne Cox said

    I’m so happy to have found your piece here. I was outraged last night at this commercial for all of the reasons you lined out. While some of the other ones were just down right stupid and offensive–like the Pepsi one where the woman follows her guy around policing his food and ends up beaning a jogger in the head with a can of the sugary crap–but Groupon created a category all their own under the heading tasteless.

  48. February 7th, 2011 at 3:44 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi PB!
    What they’ll find is the strength of the model wasn’t their edgy slant, but the “prize price” and that they were first – most folks don’t like change. But a mailing long as your arm, built quickly on price can disintegrate just as quickly if there are no relationships to hold folks to the company in other ways. Now some folks are going to see their complaints go unnoticed and if Groupon doesn’t respond in a way that convinces folks that they care about more than themselves. They’ll be losing to Living Social.

    Living Social should be doing things to show how much they care right about now.

  49. February 7th, 2011 at 3:45 pm
    USA Today’s Ad Meter: Dude, that is one BIG focus group. « Curiosity | GSD&M Blog said

    [...] like seeing Crispin tank with their bad Groupon spot, c’mon guys, you shoulda seen that one misfiring from miles [...]

  50. February 7th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Gregory Anne,
    A category all their own … yeah. How I can believe that a business cares about Tibet when they don’t care enough about their audience of potential customers? I keep thinking – shouldn’t be driving the car.

  51. February 7th, 2011 at 3:57 pm
    Sara at Saving For Someday said

    As always, Liz, you not only bring great insight but also offer serious advice (for free!). Will it fall on deaf ears? Possibly.

    I guess the Groupon execs (and their agency) felt that they were untouchable. Afterall, they rebuffed the great Google and eleventy bazillion dollars.

    I realize that Groupon has a unique sense of humor and is very pithy in their narrations. I also understand that with Christopher Guest as your director the decision to stage a parody or mockumentary-style ad was how Groupon would go.

    The problem was that many people didn’t know what Groupon was. Groupon openly admits that is one of the reasons it did the ads. But therein lies the problem. Too many people were not let in on the joke. And when that happens, there is sure to be fall out when done so publicly.

    Will it hurt Groupon? Not sure, because there will certainly be another social media/media disaster right around the corner to take our attention. Should it hurt Groupon? It should at least sting. But then again, the C-suite actually has to care for that to happen.

  52. February 7th, 2011 at 3:58 pm
    Tracy Tran said

    You mention a key point of trusting the audience. The Groupon ad reminded me of the Ricky Gervais skit from a few years ago he did for Africa.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DgIRjecItw

    The difference between Gervais and Groupon is in Gervais’s case, you knew something was going to happen. He still likes the causes he goes to, but has different reasons. In that skit, you knew it was a skit, but we knew he had the heart to do it.

    In Groupon, they had no footprint if they were generous or faking it. The Super Bowl ad gave the first impression to the audience that although charity is nice, they’re business first. If this ad was established 5 years later when everyone knows Groupon, it might work. However, since this was a startup and it was their first ad, this was a screw up from the start.

  53. February 7th, 2011 at 5:27 pm
    Frank said

    It’s not that we don’t get how clever and edgy you are, Groupon. It’s that we have enough cynical college-boy humor in our lives already.

    You want jaded irony? Just consider that most of our national debt is held by communist China. Think about that for while.

    With friends like you, the people of Tibet don’t need enemies.

  54. February 7th, 2011 at 6:13 pm
    TrudyB said

    Trying to keep up with Groupon’s level of snide is just exhausting.

    A lot of people like the Groupon concept and even some of the copyrighting. And who wasn’t rooting for the little company who said no to Google’s billions. But all that goodwill is just vanished. Groupon is just another company that will do and say anything to make money. Period. Furthermore, if they pay $6 million to make a stupid joke (and forget to put a weblink in the ad so that I have a chance of getting the joke) well, I’m just a loser I guess.

    Goodbye to Groupon and to all the cynical advertisers out there. You all just make me and my credit card to weary to shop.

  55. February 7th, 2011 at 6:50 pm
    Jeff Shuey said

    Great post Liz. This ad started off great. They had a great speaker. Then it devolved into crass capitalism. I’m all for capitlism, but not at the expense of human rights. It seems Groupon got some really bad advice. Either that or they got some advice that would insure they would be the talk of the town. In this case … being the talk of the town will not likely help the overall grandiose efforts Groupon was trying to achieve. I guess the good news is that Groupon is already on their last leg – after their debacle with Google. So, this will be just another failed Super Bowl commercial and a future Trivial Pursuit question.

  56. February 7th, 2011 at 6:53 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Yeah, Sara,
    It appears that deaf ears are exactly what’s out there.
    I was thinking that Google might have brought a little too much “energy” to the situation too.
    What I think is that Groupon has forgotten that they do have competition and they still have things to prove before they’re rock solid and filled with the wisdom of a company that’s made it past the exhilarating fast climb. It’s not fun to watch.

  57. February 7th, 2011 at 6:57 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Well, Tracy,
    You nailed it. The key to a great joke is that audience in on it. That we know it’s playful and meant to be fun.
    Just because your neighborhood knows you’re a nice guy, just because your friends know you’re good at what you do, it’s out of line to expect the world be automatically endowed with those thoughts and feelings for you.

    Beyond the content, the ad felt thrown together and not well directed.

  58. February 7th, 2011 at 7:01 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Frank, you said it.
    Even after knowing that it was meant as college boy humor. It was like OK, but it’s still an inappropriate way to handle the subject. It showed insensitivity and lack of respect. Anyone who understand the Internet knows that people beyond the US will be able to see the YouTube videos out of context and I don’t like what it says about this American company.

    Your point about Communist China is well made and sobering.

  59. February 7th, 2011 at 7:03 pm
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Trudy,
    You say it so well. Yeah, I was really rooting for Groupon, especially because they’re from Chicago. Now I’m just shaking my head.

  60. February 7th, 2011 at 8:26 pm
    Jesse Stoner said

    You’re giving Groupon some very good free advice, Liz. But it might be better to charge them a discount price. Seems that when you only value price, you don’t value anything else ~even free advice and even when it’s probably the best advice they’ll get.

  61. February 7th, 2011 at 10:12 pm
    Cate Colgan said

    Thinking with a name like Groupon they’d focus/listen more to the “GROUP”on then the group”ON” part of their name/brand .. after all a coup”ON” is just that – it’s the “GROUP” that builds the relationship- now if they’d only take just a minute or two to listen to your “GROUP”ies here Liz …. a little vid :) http://youtu.be/aqvomqbZNIc

  62. February 7th, 2011 at 10:37 pm
    Angela said

    So Groupon spends millions of dollars to first make me care about Tibet, then make me feel stupid about caring about Tibet, and instead I should feel happy about getting %15 off a Tibetan dinner, then, “oh snap, we were just fooling, it’s good to care about Tibet after all. Oh, you didn’t get the joke about how we were doing a parody of celebrity fund raising ads, you are such a loser! Hey, why are you mad, we gave money to Tibet once.”

    I’m a fairly cynical person, but I’m afraid I am not quite cynical enough to be a Groupon customer. I quit.

  63. February 8th, 2011 at 12:19 am
    Glenn said

    Nice post and apt title. I watched Groupon’s three very well produced spots after viewing the Living Social spot and was left confused and a bit amused. Who do these marketer’s think they are? Why potentially offend the largest TV viewing audience when most of them never heard of you? At least LS just went LCD. Groupon may think they are pushing the envelope. I don’t think anyone watching could care if these price discounts came from Groupon, Google, Twitter, or Val-Pack’s blue envelope.
    Show me some good-will and staying power before you offend. Groupon, for my 2 cents, can be Group-gone.

  64. February 8th, 2011 at 7:02 am
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Jesse,
    I like the way you think. Maybe I should put the offer on Groupon and see how many of their employees buy into it?
    Thank you for your encouragement.
    You’re not a stranger anymore.

  65. February 8th, 2011 at 7:11 am
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Cate,
    You always see what we miss. Yes. They’re not very good at living up to their name. Love the vid!

  66. February 8th, 2011 at 7:20 am
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Angela,
    Yeah, you described it beautifully. The joke is on you … doesn’t feeling confused and stupid make you love them more?!!
    Uh-oh, now they’re going to call you a quitter. heh heh

  67. February 8th, 2011 at 7:25 am
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Glenn,
    Exactly. Sure smacks of believing your own PR … a little cultural awareness would have gone a long way here. Your point about coupons is central to what they’re missing. “I don’t think anyone watching could care if these price discounts came from Groupon, Google, Twitter, or Val-Pack’s blue envelope.”

    There’s a line between pushing the envelope and being obnoxious and offensive.

    Thank you, Glenn, for you thoughts.

  68. February 8th, 2011 at 8:15 am
    Pigford Banks said

    Well written and thoughtful response. Good luck with your practice. As for Groupon… they took a slightly different route. No real apology, just an explanation of their strategy.

    http://www.groupon.com/blog/cities/our-super-bowl-ads-and-how-were-helping-these-causes/

  69. February 8th, 2011 at 8:48 am
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Pigford Banks
    Yes, I’ve see that. I don’t think it helped Groupon regain what they’ve lost.

  70. February 8th, 2011 at 9:56 am
    Robespierre said

    Lots of good points in this blog. Groupon flubbed, and needs to fix things.

    On another note, I would advise all bloggers to proof their material before posting. All to often, their posts are fraught with mistakes, which makes the reader wonder if he/she is really hearing experts who know their stuff.

    “It was may fault…,” “…request or or treatment…” and “…shows the mean it…” – yeah, I guess I’ve seen worse. Language is eroding, and there’s not much those who care can do about it.

  71. February 8th, 2011 at 9:58 am
    Robespierre said

    Even Robespierre is guilty: “All TOO often…..” My bad…

  72. February 8th, 2011 at 11:47 am
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Robespierre,
    Thanks for your help on this. Always like it to have someone like you in my corner.

  73. February 8th, 2011 at 11:24 pm
    Darryl Jonckheere » Groupon: Clever Isn’t Clever When It Offends said

    [...] we all get what you were trying to do but ultimately, clever only works where trust already exists and Groupon’s sheer lack of history with consumers in this respect perhaps explains why these ADs [...]

  74. February 9th, 2011 at 12:41 am
    Al said

    I wasn’t offended by the ads but probably only because I saw them beforehand on Groupon’s website, where the link to donate was prominently displayed. I think if they had even added a tag at the end – go to Groupon.com where you can save money . . . and donate it to the Tibet Fund, they would have had a lot less controversy.

    On the other hand, I read that they had tens of thousands of new subscribers in a 48 hr period after these ads. Between Groupon and Living Social, the only company anyone is still talking about is Groupon. I really do wonder if this was them being tone deaf or them pushing the old adage of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” as far as it could possibly go?

  75. February 9th, 2011 at 6:33 am
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Al!
    Groupon lost something that may not seem of value right now … the support and trust of a huge group who wanted to see them win. What’s sad is that they could have both. Coming out to say that they’re sorry to have misjudged the sensitivity of their larger fan base and that they didn’t mean to offend would have won back the group that’s unsubscribing (wonder how big that number is) and maybe even sealed the deal on what a great team of people they are.

    Few things are more attractive than a sincere apology from someone we’re hoping is who we thought they were.

  76. February 9th, 2011 at 6:57 am
    The Groupon Bubble Is About to Burst | Spin Sucks said

    [...] a social company but being as anti-social as possible? Liz Strauss said it best when she gave her advice on how to heal this very public black [...]

  77. February 9th, 2011 at 6:26 pm
    Talk, Chat, Communication, Converse…However you say it, IT’S KEY! | The Social Media-lite said

    [...] of this is how Groupon will address all the negative feedback from their Super Bowl commercial. This PR pro has some insight on that. This is the simplest way to communicate with consumers and let them know [...]

  78. February 10th, 2011 at 6:29 am
    Miss Britt said

    Its ironic to see an explanation of what a good apology is here, since just a few weeks ago Groupon was being praised for mastering the corporate apology after a snafu in (I think) Japan.

    I’m not sure they can do the same now without branding themselves as the company that does something culturally insensitive, but then is really, really sorry later.

  79. February 10th, 2011 at 4:20 pm
    Ryan Wynia said

    Great thoughts on the prescribed remedy, Liz.

    I do not think, however, that cleverness requires trust. Cleverness need only frame of reference and an audience to “succeed.” Often we’re attracted to something completely new by the nature of its cleverness. The ability to “be clever” often provides insight offering an indication into the further condition of one’s general sensibility. It can even be clever when it’s offensive. Tasteful: no. Communicative: most likely not.

    The late Paul Arden warned against “putting cleverness before communication.” This is what Groupon did and offended in the process. Their ad became ineffective because they chief goal was to be clever and not to communicate a value proposition. Cleverness is a wonderful tool to do so, but not at the cost of the aggregate goal.

  80. February 11th, 2011 at 7:49 am
    #FollowFriday: Liz Strauss | Spin Sucks said

    [...] she blogged earlier this week about the trust and credibility Groupon is missing and how they can fix the backlash from their Super Bowl ad, 370 people tweeted it, 79 people [...]

  81. February 11th, 2011 at 8:31 am
    ME Liz Strauss said

    Hi Ryan,
    I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. I was saying that clever doesn’t work where trust doesn’t already exist. I don’t necessarily believe that cleverness destroys trust that’s been established. As far as being attracted by something clever, we’ll be attracted by that clever thing that has us “in” on the joke and shares our values. We can’t be part of clever if the joke isn’t clear.

    I love the Paul Arden quote you share.

    Thank you for adding your insights to this conversation.

  82. February 11th, 2011 at 1:28 pm
    @pbarbanes said

    Groupon Apologizes – But Here’s What They Should Have Said. | Patrick Barbanes, The Branding Professor http://bit.ly/gqNhqr

  83. February 12th, 2011 at 6:59 pm
    Wishing For Spring Linky Love | PRos in Training said

    [...] Finally, a couple of posts on the horrid Groupon Super Bowl ads. This one from Spin Sucks criticizes Groupon’s “apology” and this one from Liz Strauss says clever is only clever when it doesn’t offend and offers some advice for Groupon to heal its black eye. [...]

  84. February 13th, 2011 at 10:51 pm
    Sports Sunday: Lack of competition means Groupon wins, ads or no ads – Justin Case You Were Wondering said

    [...] is about to burst. Shelly Kramer called the ads a fiasco. And Liz Strauss was one of many who offered advice on how Groupon could fix the PR problems they caused (her advice was right on point, might I [...]

  85. February 15th, 2011 at 12:45 pm
    Groupon’s Superbowl Fumble | PRassion said

    [...] crisis in Tibet is no laughing matter and as communication consultant Liz Strauss pointed out, “Clever isn’t clever when it offends.” The reaction on Twitter was much the [...]

  86. February 16th, 2011 at 9:56 am
    When Organic Experience Doesn't Scale: Groupon | 360Connext said

    [...] of the best evaluations I saw regarding the Save-The-Cash crisis was by Liz Strauss, who deftly recommended next steps to save face with customers and prospects alike. But I got to wondering…what happened [...]

  87. February 28th, 2011 at 11:16 am
    wayne said

    Someone posted that “Groupon’s ad is so offensive because it assumes our interest in saving some money on dining out far exceeds our care for human rights.” There’s a grain of truth in this comment. Consumers globally buy products and services WITHOUT promotions while completely overlooking social justice and human rights issues. Of course, if groupon was shooting for some deep social commentary about our cultural affinity for buying stuff cheap “at all costs” this was the wrong way to do it.

  88. July 19th, 2011 at 8:41 am
    Groupon’s Super Bowl Advertising Disaster | Gray Street said

    [...] “Groupon: When Being Clever Offends and How to Win One for Tibet”  By Liz Strauss “Clever isn’t clever when it offends. The problem with clever ideas is that they are a social thing. Clever only works where trust already exists. Clever is risky because it gets us looking at ourselves not the people we’re talking to. Clever backfires completely in a venue or a community where people don’t know us yet. “ [...]

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