By: Kristen Manias

As many of us saw, during Sunday’s big game, the advertisements were somewhat underwhelming. With a few standouts from Mini Darth, a kind hearted Beaver, and a Wild West rendition of “Piano Man”, a majority of the ads seemed lacking. For Groupon, compassion seemed to be the missing piece. The ads airing before and during the Super Bowl have received mixed reviews from some confused and other offended viewers.

One mockumentary starts with Cuba Gooding, Jr. walking down a beach discussing “whales, the most spectacular creatures on the planet.” He emphasizes their decreasing numbers, and urges they must be saved, but as the vacation music starts we jump to Cuba in a life jacket eagerly waiting to board a boat saying “but it’s more fun watchin’ ‘em jumpin’and playin’, and since 100 of us bought at Groupon.com, we’re each getting an $86 whale watching cruise for just $49!”

The intended message of the ads is that with the money you save, you can donate to one of the actual causes at ‘SaveTheMoney.org.’ The website features the ads as well as a link to donate to the cause each ad discusses. So far, viewers are able to donate to Greenpeace, The Rainforest Action Network, and The Tibet Fund, but the subtly of this message in the ads has been missed by most.

Maybe if the company had directed viewers to the ‘SaveTheMoney.org’, the confusion could have been avoided. Andrew Mason, CEO of the company, commented on this issue in his blog on Monday:

“We take the causes we highlighted extremely seriously – that’s why we created this campaign in partnership with many hallmark community organizations, for whom we’re raising money at SaveTheMoney.org. Groupon’s roots are in social activism – we actually began as cause-based website called The Point, and we continue to use Groupon to support local causes with our G-Team initiative. In our two short years as a business, we’ve already raised millions of dollars for national charities like Donors Choose and Kiva. When we think about commercials that offend us, we think of those that glorify antisocial behavior – like the scores of Super Bowl ads that are built around the crass objectification of women. Unlike those ads, no one walks away from our commercials taking the causes we highlighted less seriously. Not a single person watched our ad and concluded that it’s cool to kill whales. In fact – and this is part of the reason we ran them– they have the opposite effect. […] The last thing we wanted was to offend our customers – it’s bad business and it’s not where our hearts are.”

If the viewers knew the intention of the ads, they could find the humor in them and react as such. But the problem is that many did not see it and had a negative reaction. On the website, there is a new commercial ‘coming soon’ with celebrity Sheryl Crow and buildOn, a foundation looking to build four new schools in some of the world’s poorest villages. It will be interesting to see if this effort is any more successful than the previous three, and if people finally understand what ‘Save The Money’ is supposed to mean.

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Written by Ad Buzz

The American Advertising Federation Illinois Chapter brings to you Ad Buzz, a blog dedicated to all things advertising related, from our favorite campaigns to trends going on in the industry.

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