Groupon’s SB spot, or There’s no such thing as bad publicity

If you live in the United States, you probably watched the Super Bowl. During the course of this, you were no doubt inundated with tons of TV spots, some clever and entertaining, others not so much.

One of the most memorable commercials, was Groupon’s Tibet spot featuring Timothy Hutton. (If you didn’t see it, I’ve inserted it below) Basically, the premise of this commercial was that Tibetan culture is in danger of dying (thanks to the unmentioned threat of Chinese homogenization), but that in spite of this, Tibetans still make a fantastic fish curry.

Now if you’re the Chinese government, you saw this spot as a cheap shot. If you’re a bleeding heart, you saw it as exploitation of the downtrodden Tibetans. I really didn’t have a problem with either, but my main issue is that it was really lazily researched. A simple Google search would have revealed that eating fish is considered taboo to Tibetans, and outside of the Sino-ized cities it is almost never consumed. Thus referring to a “Tibetan fish curry” is really sloppy, and plays on the assumption that Americans are ignorant towards Tibetan culture.

But all of this aside, what I really wanted to touch on was the effectiveness of this commercial. Yes, it received a lot of negative feedback (Marketing Profs rated it at a 12.96% negative response rate), but negative feelings aside, it did its job. That is to say, it got people thinking and talking about Groupon. While a Super Bowl ad is sure to promote brand awareness, the fact that this spot was so controversial is probably the strongest part of it. Otherwise, it perhaps becomes lost in mix with the Cowboys vs. Aliens movie, or the Adrian Brodie Stella spot.

So what’s my point? Just that this  proves the old adage, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”.


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