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Groupon pulls controversial ads that played off Tibet, rain forest and whale appeals

February 11, 2011 | 12:49 pm

Groupon decided Thursday to pull the controversial ads the company debuted during the Super Bowl on Sunday in reaction to the backlash to the spots directed by Christopher Guest.

Andrew Mason, Groupon's chief executive, announced the company's decision in a blog post, noting that the company doesn't want to seek attention by stirring controversy. "We hate that we offended people, and we're very sorry that we did -- it's the last thing we wanted," Mason said. "We've listened to your feedback, and since we don't see the point in continuing to anger people, we're pulling the ads."

The three ads featured Timothy Hutton, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Liz Hurley, each in ads that mocked the pleading ads seeking charitable support for Tibet, the endangered whales and the Brazilian rain forest, respectively.

Initially, Mason respond to the controversy by attempting to explain that, through humor, Groupon would be able to ultimately help groups the company supports. Mason wrote in a blog post on Tuesday:

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.

But he's since changed his mind. "[If] an ad requires an explanation," Mason said, "that means it didn't work."

Do you agree with Groupon's decision? Did you find the ads funny or offensive?


Did Groupon's Super Bowl ad go too far?

-- Rick Rojas