Missing the Mark… Groupon’s Tibet Superbowl Commercial

Whether you’re a sports fan or not, by now you’ve probably seen the Superbowl Ad (can be seen by cllicking the link or scroll to the bottom of this for the embedded video) that Groupon put out featuring Timothy Hutton.

The video starts out marvelously, and it seems like maybe someone is actually trying to raise some awareness on a large stage re: Tibet. The ad makes a turn for the worst as quickly as it has you hoping this is the real deal.

Timothy Hutton starts off saying things such as… “The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy.” I was saying wow at this point, what a great commercial, then he hits us with this line… “But they still whip up an amazing fish curry.” He goes on to mention how he and some people got together for Groupon and now get Tibetan food at half the cost, the commercial ends with the the words, “save money.”

At first I was outraged, downright pissed off, I felt the anger deep in my bones. I went on Twitter and talked about my dissatisfaction, there were tons of others who were just as pissed as well. How could they, Groupon, be so ignorant?

I do understand that in a way, Groupon did bring some awareness to Tibet via the commercial, but it could have been done in a more tasteful manner. I also know that with each commercial they do, supposedly, they donate a good chunk of money to the cause that the commercial is based on.

Not only did I jump on Twitter, but I went to Groupon’s website and sent them my thoughts. I received a response back almost immediately, that said…

Hi Nate

Thanks for your feedback!

We certainly don’t mean to offend with our advertisements. We think renting celebrities to promote our “Save the Money” campaign is pretty funny, but we understand if it doesn’t tickle you the right way.

In fact, we’re already raising awareness and funds for organizations who are doing work around these causes. Please go to http://savethemoney.org and you will have the opportunity to donate to any of these causes. Groupon will gladly match your donation.

Additionally, we do occasionally feature other real charities on our site, so if you have any suggestions for us, please let us know here: http://groupon.sponsorships.sgizmo.com

Thanks again for your feedback! Let me know if you have any other suggestions or questions.


Jon M

I replied back, again reiterating my disappointment, but also bring a couple other Tibetan organizations to Groupons attention. I received a reply back saying they apologized for offending anyone with the commercial, it was not their intent.

I can understand what they were trying to do, and honestly think they thought they were doing the right thing. But, I think a little sensitivity training, and a better PR firm, could have made this commercial way better.

How did/does the commercial make you feel?


  1. Totally uncool. It is NOT cool to bring even positive attention to something in a loathsome way. I do not think that we should find ways to spin this around. Groupon screwed up; we should disapprove; and perhaps, then, efforts like Groupon’s will cease.

  2. It was not a great Ad by any means, but I smiled when I saw it. I also thought the blow back regarding the Ad was ironic considering that it’s all about finding cosmic humor in everything, and not taking yourself too seriously.

  3. Not cool indeed. I think they could’ve come up with a much better commercial that really triggered happy feelings, ya know? They lost many customers over this. If you are going to advertise during the Superbowl you have to realize you are going to have critics…and a lot of them. I think this will change the way companies promote themselves and be a little more cautious when it comes to touchy subjects like this. With that said people are looking for alternative social coupon sites I’m sure! One of my favorites is http://www.imin.com – check them out.

  4. I cancelled too. They claim they’re in the clear because they’ll donate up to 100 grand to Tibet-related charitable organizations — IF Groupon members do the same (i.e. it’s a matched contribution).

    When the ad itself cost $3M, that’s an obvious bait and switch. 100K is chump change to a company whose IPO is projected to be in the billions.

  5. I got the exact same email back from them, and an even more inane one to my subsequent response.
    “…but we understand if it doesn’t tickle you the right way.”
    I suspect the people of Tibet are not tickled by their plight either.
    The group they list to make donations to is to support economic opportunities for Tibetan refugee youth.
    The issue is that there are Tibetan refugee youth!
    Groupon has an opportunity to act for the social and moral good of this country and it’s people, a country that essentially no longer exits.
    Please, if pressure is kept on Groupon over the next many days, perhaps there can be a positive outcome to this inappropriate attempt to make financial gain on the back of genocide.

  6. I felt as you all did. My feet were knocked from under me.

    And yes, somewhere they had good intentions. And yes, maybe some money was raised to help others. And yes, there are better ways to go about it.

    It has brought to mind…that Groupon, the ad agency, & Tim Hutton need metta. So they will have compassion for others, in addition to the money they donate.

    I need more meditation to find my middle way on this.

    Thank you for a clear and thoughtful post.

    Namaste to all. Metta and compassion to all sentient beings

  7. Yea I felt the exact same way. I was sitting there with my wife and kids and I was like, man this is a great commercial and then WHAM! Knocked upside the head by stupidity. I was totally taken back and went to twitter to see if maybe I just took this the wrong way, but by all the posts I saw I wasn’t alone in feeling the way I did. After reading your post here, like you, I can also understand what they are trying to do but still feel that was a shitty way of doing it. Just my two cents. Metta to you.

  8. Yeah, that was not so cool. Quite trivializing. One wouldn’t use genocides in Rawanda or the carnage in Cambodia to sell anything, and one shouldn’t use the cultural genocide of a currently-suffering people and nation to sell coupons. I hope the ad helped them earn some money that they can donate to a good cause, but there has to be better ways to go about it.

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