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Groupon superbowl commercials - Brilliant internet marketing or Poor taste?

Updated on February 8, 2011

Groupon Superbowl Commercials 2011

Groupon Superbowl Commercial controversy

Whether or not you care about the Superbowl itself, you have inevitably heard/seen some of the superbowl commercials. With ads costing around $3 Million per 30 seconds, advertisers typically go all out and unleash their best stuff. With the growing scope of Social Media Marketing in mind, advertisers must look for ways to produce content worthy of social syndication. Recently there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the Groupon Superbowl commercials which aired during superbowl XLV. Groupon, in an attempt to be funny, released three new super bowl commercials all which seem to make light of some serious situations in the world. If you missed the ads, here is a brief summary. The Groupon Superbowl commercial ads videos are also below. After the videos I'll share my opinion on why I believe Groupon knew EXACTLY what they were doing, and also why it is sadistically brilliant from an internet marketing perspective.

Groupon 2011 Super Bowl Commercial Ad - Save Tibet - Money

features Timothy Hutton and highlights some of the tragedy that has befallen the Tibetan people, only to then to say: but don't worry, you can still get a discount on Tibetan food.

Groupon 2011 Super Bowl Commercial Ad - Save the Whales - Money

features actor Cuba Gooding Jr. discussing how Whales are endangered, and how someone should save them. Then he talks about how rather than saving them, it would be more fun to watch them - so save money on a Whale watching tour.

Groupon 2011 Super Bowl Commercial Ad - Save the Rainforest - Money

features actress Elizabeth Hurley, discussing how rapid deforestation is destroying the Rainforest, but then in an attempt at humor, she jokes that not all deforestation is bad and how you can save money at a waxing salon in New York.

Groupon 2011 Super Bowl Commercial Ad - Save Tibet - Money VIDEO

Groupon 2011 Super Bowl Commercial Ad - Save the Whales - Money VIDEO

Groupon 2011 Super Bowl Commercial Ad - Save the Rainforest - Money VIDEO

Who did you cheer for? Support them!

So why did Groupon release these Ads?

Groupon's reaction to the controversy surrounding their Super bowl XLV ads was feigned ignorance. They thought they were making an innocent joke and playing off the typical public service announcement style format. Groupon's Super bowl commercials were an attempt to be humorous which definitely failed.

But if you listen to what Groupon has to say about their Superbowl ads, I do not think you can fully believe that they were unaware that these ads were if nothing else, in poor taste. Some might argue the Groupon Superbowl ads were downright controversial.

Let's think about a few things. The classic advertising adage is no publicity is bad publicity.

Groupon's superbowl commercials - Is any publicity bad publicity?

So after the controversy over Groupon's controversial 2011 superbowl ads spread, they released statements about how they were going to donate money to these causes etc. etc. First deny they meant to air insensitive Superbowl ads (or at least denying that they knew in advance the ads were insensitive), then Groupon highlights that charity site to give money to the causes they made light of.  All this in mind help repair their image. Many people will see these two actions and decide, well Groupon is OK - they didn't mean it. AND - I still want to save money - so whatever, I'll keep using them.

They may be thinking about the old advertising adage - No publicity is bad publicity

I can't tell you how many news stories I've read recently talking about Groupon's controversial superbowl ad campaign and can't even imagine how much free publicity they've gotten from running these ads.

Groupon superbowl commercials from an internet marketing perspective

Groupon's controversial superbowl commercial ads from an internet marketing perspective are wildly successful. Already, the videos are populating Youtube and being shared by thousands of people. They are making their way into Facebook newsfeeds, twitter updates, and spreading virally through all forms of Social Media.

It's very hard to get a video to go viral, but CONTROVERSY is something that cannot be ignored as a means to achieve this effect.

Internet marketing: Using Controversy - A Case Study

DecorMyEyes is a company that used a highly controversial internet marketing strategy to perfection. It was so uniquely terrible but successful, that the founder, Vitaly Borker, had a story written about him in the New York times. His downfall was discussing his methods and eventually going a little too far pissing off the wrong lady. See a story about Google and view some of the terrible comments posted about DecorMyEyes

"In response to this situation, Google put a team together and decided to develop an 'algorithmic solution' - in true Google form - and the change is already live."

So what did he do? and more importantly WHY? He basically was HORRIFICALLY rude to his customers. So rude I might violate Hubpages decency policies by quoting him. Let's just say he harassed his customers by phone and email with every rude expletive he could think of. Here's a quote from the New York times article about how he got started.

"He stumbled upon the upside of rudeness by accident.

“I stopped caring,” he says, and for that he blames customers. They lied and changed their minds in ways that cost him money, he says, and at some point he started telling them off in the bluntest of terms. To his amazement, this seemed to better his standing in certain Google searches, which brought in more sales.

Before this discovery, he’d hired a search optimization company to burnish his site’s reputation by writing positive things about DecorMyEyes online. Odious behavior, he realized, worked much better, and it didn’t cost him a penny."

Read the full story on the New York times

By calculating exactly how rude he could be, and to how many people, without getting shut-down he could generate a lot of negative publicity.

If you know something about search engine ranking, you will understand the importance of backlinks. These are links that point to your site from other places on the web. The more backlinks you have, the more authority Google will give to your site, and the higher you will rise in the search results. DecorMyEyes used a weakness in the algorithm to build backlinks like crazy. All his negative reviewers inevitably linked to his sight (telling others to stay away). However, in Google's eyes, these links were just links - the Spiders couldn't distinguish them from any other link. The site skyrocketed in the SERPs, even outranking some of the manufacturer's whose products they sold.

His strategy did not however, take into account the human element. Once Google was alerted, you can see that they reacted swiftly and worked on some necessary changes to prevent this kind of abuse in the future.

So this story is extreme - the Groupon SuperBowl Commercial Advertisements are really not the same thing - but I think there is some connection to the overall idea.

What do you think about Groupons Superbowl Commercial Ads?

What do you think about Groupons Superbowl Commercial Ads?

See results

Take a look at a Groupon deal to get an idea about what they're all about!

Groupon Superbowl Commercial controversy: the internet marketing explained

Groupon's superbowl ads were not nearly as offensive as what DecorMyEyes did.  However I do believe they were trying to spark a controversy.  I believe their commercials were calculated efforts to spark a controversy, and get the videos spread around and raise awareness of their brand.  As a new company, there are LARGE markets that remain untapped and starting a controversy on a huge stage like the superbowl is going to create a buzz.   I think it's safe to say their plan is working - Check out Google Trends:

I will say this, I don't actually believe Groupon is a bad company.  I think they did this with a calculated internet marketing strategy in mind.  Here's another thing to look at.  Groupon is promoting a site called  This site is being mentioned in almost EVERY news story I read.  Remember DecorMyEyes - the more links the better!  Groupon's plan may inadvertantly actually be helping Savethemoney is a site where Groupon matches charitable donations to several causes linked to the controversial superbowl ads.  A relatively unknown site, catalyzed by thousands of backlinks is a great way to gain exposure in Google's search results - and hey, this time it's actually for a good cause.  In some ways the strategy is Win, win, win! Groupon wins, the charities win, and you win - because you get to keep using Groupon without feeling like a jerk.

I think some of their strategy really was to get some awareness out for not only their brand, but also for this charity site (which also inadvertently promotes their brand).  The Groupon Superbowl commercial ads controversy is in my opinion a masterful campaign.  It created buzz, while walking the fine line of not being too offensive.  The Groupon Superbowl commercials were just controversial enough to achieve their objective.

What do you think?  I am curious about other people's opinions on this subject so please comment, share, and tweet this!!  Thanks


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