Every year, it seems every Superbowl advertiser wants to be The One that everyone talks about the next day. It’s no wonder, since advertisers can pay $2.5 million to $2.8 million for a 30 second spot. That’s $93,333 each second they’re on the air. So each year, advertisers get more and more outrageous. As a result, we’re subjected every year to commercials involving monkeys and people getting kicked in the groin.
It’s no wonder that Groupon decided to get into the game. They were one of the hottest Internet companies of 2010–so hot that Google offered to buy them, and they turned them down. I get their emails every day, and I routinely save 50% on great restaurants in New York (you can get daily email offers for dozens and dozens of cities around the US). Just the other day, I saved 50% on their phenomenal national deal with Barnes and Noble.
Groupon did something interesting for the 2011 Super Bowl. They hired actors Timothy Hutton, Cuba Gooding Junior, Elizabeth Hurley to film a series of commercials for them.
Each commercial starts out with moving music in the background, with scenes of a serious charitable cause and the actor or actress (all who have been on the Hollywood A-List not too long ago) doing an impassioned voice-over. Then, suddenly, the tone changes and they end up talking about how they ended up Saving The Money (a play on Saving the Children or Saving the Animals) on a self-indulgent activity by using Groupon.
Judging from early voters on YouTube, people are not amused. How dare Groupon take important causes and trivialize them by hocking things like whale watching trips, expensive restaurant food, and Brazilian waxes! Tweets and blogs are lighting up with outrage.
Of course, this is what Groupon’s ad agency was going for. Of course, the company and the actors and actresses are part of an elaborate inside joke. These commercials are parodies of the sanctimonious, maudlin charity commercials that permeate the airwaves. They’re poking gentle fun at them, as well as the actors and actresses that lend their names and their voices to these causes. (Of course, at the same time they’re building brand recognition for the Groupon brand and probably making a little chunk of change for themselves).
Time will tell, of course, if the humor was a little too subtle. One thing that Groupon’s ad agency may have underestimated is the mass audience’s grasp on irony. For a company that needs to build a strong brand, they’re really rolling the dice on this one. Will consumers view Groupon as a fun company that gives great deals and doesn’t take itself too seriously? Or will they see this as using important causes to build their own fortune? Either way, it’ll be an interesting conversation to watch over the next few days.
Before you cast your judgment, keep in mind that Groupon does have legitimate “deals” where you can really donate $15 to save the whales, help Tibet, and save the rainforests, and they will match the donation.
Here are the Groupon Superbowl spots:
Clever or Crass? You be the judge.
Although at the end of the day, the clear winner this year has got to be Volkswagen. Ironic how the most talked-about commercial this year was not one that involved multi-million dollar special effects, dancing animals, or various body parts getting beaten up, but just a kid in a Darth Vader outfit.