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Did Groupon Super Bowl ad hurt the brand?s image?

Daily deals giant Groupon intended to increase awareness among the millions of viewers watching Sunday night?s Super Bowl XLV. Some industry experts believe the commercial may have been a misfire.

The Groupon commercial, which cost the company $3 million, features actor Timothy Hutton talking about the troubles in Tibet. Mr. Hutton points out that even with the troubles going on, consumers can still save money on the country?s fish curry via the deal-per-day service.

?I was confused by the commercial,? said Wilson Kerr, Brookline, MA-based location-based services consultant. ?They tried to do too much and assumed people would get the minor celebrity cause humor bait and switch.

?The last 4 seconds, the ad was effective, as it showed a location and a local deal available,? he said. ?Introduce us to who you are and what you do, not your ability to cram a witty idea into 30 seconds, especially when the subject matter is so politically dangerous.

?Perhaps they wanted to antagonize China and the subject was a reference to Google?s troubles in this area. Snubbing Google?s offer was one thing - snubbing a world superpower is quite another.?   

Here is the Super Bowl Groupon commercial featuring Mr. Hutton:

Take a stab
In the commercial, Groupon said that although the people in Tibet are in trouble and their culture is in jeopardy, it is still OK.

Obviously people are having mixed emotions over the ad.

?The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy. But they still whip up an amazing fish curry, and since 200 of us bought at, we're each getting $30 worth of Tibetan food for just $15 at Himalayan Restaurant in Chicago,? Mr. Hutton said in the video.

According to Groupon, although the company has gained success both online and in mobile, there are still a lot of consumers who have not heard of the daily deals service.

The Super Bowl ad was meant to address this issue and build awareness. 

?The gist of the concept is that when groups of people act together to do something, it?s usually to help a cause,? the company said in a blog post. ?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?' the blog said.

In addition to the Tibet commercial, there were two more PSA-like commercials.

One featured Elizabeth Hurley who addressed the Brazilian rainforest, but also said that ?not all deforestation is bad, like a 50 percent discount on a Brazilian wax.?

Here is the commerical featuring Ms. Hurley:

Another commercial showed Cuba Gooding Jr. The actor said: ?Whales. They are the most spectacular creatures on the planet, but today, their numbers are dwindling. Somebody?s gotta save them. But it?s more fun watching them jumping, playing. And since 100 of us bought on, we?re each getting an $86 whale-watching cruise for just $49.?

Here is the commercial featuring Mr. Gooding Jr.

?Groupon is being pursued by too many companies, with nearly identical value propositions, and consumers have a choice,? Mr. Kerr said. ?The personality of the company came through and they should carefully consider the merits of acting like quirky, hoodie-wearing Goggle-snubbing outliers trying to make a statement via insensitive parodies on a world stage.

?Twitter is still lit up and most of the chatter I saw was all negative," he said. "Newspapers and other regionally-relevant traditional media are hot on their heels, with a local, trusted sales force already in-place.

"Google Offers is on the way and I would imagine crushing Groupon is at the top of the secret 2011 Google To-Do List. Facebook Deals is one to watch out for and LivingSocial is riding high, with deep support from retail giant Amazon ? Groupon made themselves an even bigger target and this ad hurt them.?

The company is getting some bad press for the commercials, but consumers cannot stop talking about them.  So for those that believe the company has missed the mark, perhaps Groupon is getting the last laugh and seeing results they actually wanted.

Like the saying goes, any press is good press.

Groupon was not the only coupon company that advertised during the Superbowl.

LivingSocial, which Amazon recently invested $175 million in, took a different approach to reaching consumers during the Super Bowl.

Instead of pointing at negative situations happening around the world, the commercial focused on how the company?s daily deals changed a man?s life. 

According to Ace Metrix, the Groupon ad received a 468 Ace Score ? out of a possible 950 points, putting it in the bottom 10 percent of all Super Bowl ads in terms of creative effectiveness.

The average Super Bowl ad Ace Score was 549, per Ace Metrix.

By comparison, Living Social's ad scored only 455 points. 

"At $3 million per ad, a goal of any Super Bowl ad should be to appeal to a mass audience," said Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix, Los Angeles. "While the Groupon ad scored high attention scores  615 it failed to appeal to a mass audience."

Here is the LivingSocial pre-game commercial

Mobile offerings
Recently, Google offered Groupon $6 billion to acquire the mobile couponing and local advertising company. However, Groupon declined (see story).

Additionally, Groupon is undergoing a lawsuit that could have a negative impact on the company?s growth in the mobile space.

The lawsuit is alleging that Groupon and its retail clients issue ?gift certificates that are sold and issued with expiration dates that are deceptive? (see story).

Mobile dilemma?
So what do the commercials mean for Groupon?s mobile offerings?

?Unlike most U.S. retailers, Groupon has an app for all three of the major platforms and, more importantly, a mobile-optimized site that is commerce-enabled,? Mr. Kerr said.

?I do not see the Super Bowl ad specifically impacting their mobile efforts, although, with over 50 percent of Americans now accessing the Web on a smartphone, the pain they are feeling from the PR disaster is certainly traveling the Web a lot faster, due to mobile,? he said.