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How Controversial is the ‘Controversial’ Groupon Super Bowl Ad?


"Their very culture is in jeopardy. But they still whip up an amazing fish curry."

The day afer the Super Bowl there are always plenty of commercial critiques buzzing around the internet. And there is a good deal of material that will be, and should be, scrutinized. But one commercial in particular is catching the eye of many -- and it's one that you might not suspect. The hot item? Groupon's "Tibet" ad.

The commercial features actor Timothy Hutton in a fake PSA that originally appears to be a warm defense of the Tibetan people and their suffering at the hands of China. But it's not.

"The people of Tibet are in trouble," actor Hutton says in the ad. "Their very culture is in jeopardy. But they still whip up an amazing fish curry." He goes on to explain that because 200 people signed up for a Groupon, they can all enjoy the great food. And that's it.

But the ad has some wondering if Groupon crossed the line by exploiting the suffering of a people group, especially in light of the events in Egypt. The group went as far as to write on its Twitter account, "Support Tibet's largest charity" with a link to its commercial as well as three other ads that are similar. The page does, however, allow people to donate $15 to a Tibetan charity. It also allows people who watch a different ad to donate $15 to Greenpeace to support anti-whaling. Greenpeace, you might remember, is the same group that took part in the anti-capitalist rally last weekend in protest of the Koch brothers.

The tweet and the commercial had one person asking if Kenneth Cole, who tried to exploit the Egyptian crisis last week, came up with the idea:

Now the ad:

Groupon explained the concept like this:

The gist of the concept is this: When groups of people act together to do something, it’s usually to help a cause. With Groupon, people act together to help themselves by getting great deals. So what if we did a parody of a celebrity-narrated, PSA-style commercial that you think is about some noble cause (such as “Save the Whales”), but then it’s revealed to actually be a passionate call to action to help yourself (as in “Save the Money”)?

You can watch the other ads here.

What do you think, controversial or not, especially considering some of the other racy commercials that aired?

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