Last week, we had the Kenneth Cole-Egypt debacle on Twitter. This week, it’s a new social media scandal: Online coupon service Groupon seems to have won the “Most Talked About Super Bowl Ad” award — but not in a positive sense. The group-sales juggernaut has offended, well, just about everyone on the Internet with a series of commercials featuring celebrities discussing social issues (deforestation in Brazil, the ceaseless killing of whales) and then plugging Groupon sales and products. The biggest offender is below:
The apparent tone-deafness of the ads — particularly in the wake of Egypt’s upheaval — drove thousands of irate consumers, and reporters, to the Internet to wage protests. New York Times reporter Stuart Elliott wrote: “The commercial made Kenneth Cole’s comment about Egypt on Twitter last week — ‘Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available’ — seem sensitive.” Meanwhile, Twitter exploded with tweets like this:
Of course, their smug-seeming celebration might be premature: If you click on the link provided in the tweet, it shows that Groupon, while highest on the list of post-Super Bowl brand awareness, was receiving overwhelmingly negative feedback, with the majority of tweets urging people to unsubscribe from the coupon service.
We’ll be watching closely to see whether Groupon’s ad — and its flippant response to online outrage — has any real effect on the company’s subscriber numbers. Dealbook points out that the parties with a right to be mad are Groupon’s investors, who injected $950 million into the company earlier this year. So now we sit and wait for an answer to the age-old question: Is all press good press?