An ad that was broadcast during Sunday’s Super Bowl is under attack for spoofing charity fund raising, writes The New York Times.
The ad for Groupon was designed to promote charity—but viewers had to go online after seeing the broadcast ad to figure that out.
In the Super Bowl commercial, Tibetan refugees were shown trying to sell online discount coupons. The actor Timothy Hutton spoke in the kinds of words charities use to call attention to troubled parts of the world. “The people of Tibet are in trouble,” he said as sad music was playing. “Their very culture is in jeopardy.”
Shortly after that, Mr. Hutton is shown in a restaurant. “But they still whip up an amazing fish curry,” he says, “and since 200 of us bought at Groupon.com, we’re each getting $30 worth of Tibetan food for just $15” at a restaurant in Chicago.
The spot then sends people to the Groupon site, where they quickly find out that the campaign is about helping four charities.
“If you save so much money that you feel like saving something else,” reads text on a Groupon page, “donate to the four mission-driven organizations below. Groupon is matching donations to make sure they can save the money, too.”
But because many people just saw the Super Bowl commercial and didn’t go to the site, they saw the campaign in a bad light, and many criticized Groupon.
In response, Andrew Mason, chief executive at Groupon, posted a statement on the company’s blog.
“The last thing we wanted was to offend our customers,” Mr. Mason wrote, because “it’s bad business and it’s not where our hearts are.”
“We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes,” he wrote. “We take the causes we highlighted extremely seriously,” which is “why we created this campaign in partnership with many hallmark community organizations, for whom we’re raising money.”