After suffering through a firestorm of criticism for the past 12-plus hours over what was perceived as an insensitive Super Bowl advertisement, Groupon.com is pulling its Tibet spot, spokeswoman Julie Mossler said.
"We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes -- even if we didn’t take them as seriously as we do, what type of company would go out of their way to be so antagonistic?" reads a message from Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, who says he's spent all day fielding questions about negative backlash to the company's ads. "We took this approach knowing that, if anything, they would bring more funding and support to the highlighted causes. ... The last thing we wanted was to offend our customers -- it’s bad business and it’s not where our hearts are."
The offending ad begins: “Mountainous Tibet - one of the most beautiful places in the world," the worst of the Groupon ads begins. "This is Timothy Hutton. The people of Tibet are in trouble, their very culture in jeopardy. But they still whip up an amazing fish curry. And since 200 of us bought on Groupon.com we’re getting $30 worth of Tibetan food for just $15 at Himalayan restaurant in Chicago.”
The company said the purpose of the ad was two fold, they wanted to have a little fun while drawing attention to a serious cause. Online the ads are paired with a link to a Tibet charity with instructions on how to donate, but on-air the message was lost.
"The humor was designed to draw attention to causes including Greenpeace, The Tibet Fund, and Rainforest Action Network," a public relations spokesperson said in an email. "Groupon actually started as a collective action and philanthropy site (ThePoint.com). Collective action is in Groupon's DNA and this campaign pokes fun at its own roots."
Twitter users, Facebookers and bloggers took the Internet almost immediately to voice their displeasure with the tone-deaf advertisement. Some even suggested unsubscribing from the coupon site because of the way it used a serious issue to hock its wares.