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Did Groupon's Super Bowl ad go too far? [Updated]

February 7, 2011 |  7:40 am

If the Dalai Lama was watching the Super Bowl, he probably wasn't laughing at Groupon's ad. The spot featured actor Timothy Hutton, speaking in an ultra-serious tone, and making light of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, a situation many find morally contemptuous. "The people of Tibet are in trouble," he said. "Their very culture is in jeopardy ... but they still whip up an amazing fish curry. And since 200 of us bought at Groupon.com, we're getting $30 of Tibetan food for just $15 at Himalayan Restaurant in Chicago."

Funny? Some people didn't think so. A few minutes after the ad aired, a backlash quickly ignited on Twitter. Watch the clip above and tell us what you think: Was the ad in poor taste?

[Updated at 8:55 a.m.: Groupon responds on its website and offers to match donations to the Tibet Fund: "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”)?

“Since we grew out of a collective action and philanthropy site (ThePoint.com) and ended up selling coupons, we loved the idea of poking fun at ourselves by talking about discounts as a noble cause. So we bought the spots, hired mockumentary expert Christopher Guest to direct them, enlisted some celebrity faux-philanthropists, and plopped down three Groupon ads before, during, and after the biggest American football game in the world.

“You can view the already-aired commercials, as well as new ones as we release them, at SaveTheMoney.org. And if you’ve saved enough money for yourself and feel like saving something else, you can donate to mission-driven organizations that are doing great work for the causes featured in our PSA parodies. If you guys pony up, Groupon will contribute matching donations of up to $100,000 for three featured charities -- Rainforest Action Network, buildOn, and the Tibet Fund -- and Groupon credit of up to $100,000 for contributions made to Greenpeace.”]

-- Melissa Maerz

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