Groupon Says Super Bowl Ads "Execution Was Off," Pulls Them From TV, YouTube

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason took to the web again Thursday to announce that the group-discount company will be pulling its controversial Super Bowl ads from the airwaves. In the blog post, Mason took personal responsibility for the ads and wrote that they will be replaced by "something less polarizing."

The ads were the creation of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the Boulder, Colorado-based ad agency that was the subject of a recent Fast Company profile. Five days after critics accused the agency's ads of trivializing the political struggle in Tibet, Mason has decided the Super Bowl spots went too far.

"One thing is clear—our ads offended a lot of people," he wrote. (A firestorm of comments from Fast Company readers about the commercial certainly confirms this fact.) "We hate that we offended people, and we're sorry that we did it."

Versions of the ad uploaded to YouTube by Groupon were also set to "private" and not viewable by the general public, although others have posted unofficial rips of the spots.

Though Mason did not name Crispin Porter + Bogusky by name in the apology (he mentioned them in an earlier post), he did publicly criticize their work. "If an ad requires an explanation, that means it didn't work," Mason said. "Clearly the execution was off and the joke didn't come through."

Will the replacement ads come from Crispin Porter + Bogusky or a different agency? Will the CP+B accept responsibility for the ads as well?

Requests Crispin Porter + Bogusky for comment were not immediately returned.

"We certainly aren’t trying to be the kind of company that builds its brand on creating controversy," Mason concluded in his blog post. "We think the quality of our product is a much stronger message."

A Groupon spokesperson declined to comment beyond Mason's post, adding only, "I would tell America to stay tuned."

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  • Manny Pratt

    Sadly, for Crispin Porter + Bogusky, this pretty much means the inherited legacy of being masters of smart, controversial creativity is spent. The next time a nervous client waffles on a daring idea, what are they going to say, "Trust us, we know what we're doing?"

    While it's not like Crispin has never made a campaign that didn't succeed (Haggar, Orville Redenbacher to name a few) they never had such an overwhelmingly enormous blunder on such a huge, worldwide stage. And this impudent effort seems to have no allies cheering it on, whatsoever.

    What the agency had going for it with Alex Bogusky was uniquely enticing. Now that he's left AND they've so miserably failed to replicate his style, the new keepers of the keys will need to scramble to invent an entirely new way of attracting clients. Will it be as effective? Good luck.

  • Ron Brant

    I agree with Robert and Mike. What's slightly gratifying I suppose, is that the client took full responsibility. The more Mr. Mason can get out in front and try - TRY to repair the damage – the better the chance Groupon might actually be able to grow up and do good things, like supporting Tibet and its people (there's a promotion there somewhere). This wasn't just a failure in execution, it was a flawed strategy. Perhaps it was a case of trying too hard in the absence of Alex Jesus and his magical creative barometer. It's always amazing to me how a terrible idea can gain traction, get approved, get produced and given the final thumbs up - you know, like Iraq. I know it's easier to criticize than create – pulling off a well-crafted Super Bowl spot these days (VW) must be like Tibetan Sudoku, which is very very hard.

  • Garrett

    Looks like Groupon is finally feeling the heat. It is ridiculous that it has taken them this long. Let's turn the heat up and continue to cancel your Groupon accounts! If you need to know how to fully cancel it, check out my blog post on how to delete you Groupon account:

  • Robert Ferrer

    This sounds similar the Kenneth Cole/Egypt tweet. I'm truly surprised that folks can forget the difference between telling a joke over a beer of a few friends and telling a joke on a national stage. Andrew Mason's comment missed it's mark. It's not that the joke didn't come through, it's that the joke was in poor taste. Replace "Oppression of Tibet"—which includes killings, tubal ligations of Tibetan women, and revisionist history—with "Jewish Holocaust" and see if that joke makes it out of Creative.

  • Mike Kelley

    The commercial sucks to begin with. It's not bad because it's controversial, it's bad because it just plain sucks. They fell victim to trying to hard to make a funny super bowl ad, which it is not, politics and subject matter aside. If it was funny that would be one thing, but they not only missed the mark on humor but also on taste. How this even got off the drawing board is beyond me.