Groupon Responds to Super Bowl Commercial Controversy [Updated]

Groupon sure did make a splash at the big game, but from all the post-Super Bowl buzz, it’s clear the agency behind the ad, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, stumbled in creating the right impression for the brand.


Yesterday, Groupon dipped into its $950 million piggy bank and bought ads for the Super Bowl. The group-discount service touted the spots as a way to give in to its “Napolean complex” and “invade the rest of the world” with a proper primetime commercial.

Groupon sure did make a splash at the game, but from all the post-Super Bowl buzz, it’s clear the company stumbled in creating the right impression for the brand. One of the spots, which many found borderline offensive, seemed to trivialize the political struggle currently going on in Tibet. In a blog post today, CEO Andrew Mason responded to the controversy, and, in doing so, may have revealed the culprit behind the ad: Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

Though Mason took responsibilty for the spot, explaining that trivializing Tibet’s cause was never Groupon’s intention, the company’s founder was clear about who came up with the idea for the commercial: 

The firm that conceived the ad, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, strives to draw attention to the cultural tensions created by brands. When they created this Hulu ad, they highlighted the idea that TV rots your brain, making fun of Hulu. Our ads highlight the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues, making fun of Groupon. Why make fun of ourselves? Because it’s different–ads are traditionally about shameless self promotion, and we’ve always strived to have a more honest and respectful conversation with our customers. 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?

Groupon couldn’t say with 100% certainty whether Alex Bogusky, the agency’s so-called Ad Jesus, was involved with the commercial. But his former firm reached out with confirmation: “I can 100% say that Alex Bogusky had nothing to do with this campaign,” a rep tells us. As reported in a recent Fast Company profile, the agency has been in a transition period since his departure. 

Crispin now, (left to right): Partner and Chief Creative Officer Jeff Benjamin; CEO Andrew Keller; Partner/Worldwide Chief Creative Officer Rob Reilly

With Crispin Porter + Bogusky no longer actually Crispin, Porter, and Bogusky, has the industry’s hottest ad agency finally lost its flair? Whatever the case, Mason and Groupon have proved that there’s nothing less humorous than a joke explained.


About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.