Groupon has been slammed for airing insensitive commercials making fun of issues people care about in the name of selling coupons. CEO Andrew Mason posted on his blog, not an apology, but an explanation of the joke.
His defense is that they were parodies of celebrity-voiced PSAs. Okay, here's what you don't get about parodies, Andrew. They fully imitate the source material and change one thing that's absurd and makes it funny - and they let us in on the one thing that's different early so we're in on the joke, too. See virtually any SNL commercial parody for an example of this. They do it well. Your PSAs spend the first half of its thirty seconds as a legitimate message about the plight of a people, or species or forest. Then it pulls the rug out by saying "Fuck them! I got a great deal from Groupon!" Not a joke. Certainly not a well-crafted one. I care about those issues and your commercial made me feel like shit for liking Groupon. Was that the desired affect?
This is a parody.
(A montage of young 20-somethings dressed casually, sitting at computers writing, slowly getting a soda from the break room refrigerator, checking their Facebook accounts. Slow, moving music plays.)
TIMOTHY HUTTON (VO)
Internet savvy Groupon. One of the hippest on-line companies to work for in the world. This is Timothy Hutton. The people of Groupon are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy.
(Close-up on an unshaven Groupon worker dejectedly walking from a printer seeming to carry a stack of papers below his waist which we cannot see. He moves in slow motion to the funeral-esque music. Cut to close-up of Timothy Hutton.)
Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about it! I got paid. So did the ad agency and Christopher Guest the director got paid a ridiculous amount of money to just come in a shoot the commercial that had already been storyboarded and pre-produced to the nth degree. It’s a multi-million dollar Super Bowl ad, after all.
(Camera pans back to reveal Groupon worker now waiting on tables and placing a dish in front of Hutton. Hutton takes a bite from his plate of food.)
SERVER/FORMER GROUPON EMPLOYEE
We don't even make that dish.
(Hutton's smart phone dings. He checks it.)
Oooh, a great deal from Living Social.
(Cut to logo of Living Social.)
Save your money. Use Living Social.
Groupon spent approximately 15 million dollars for those three Super Bowl ads. What a waste of money. I would have been more impressed, and still subscribed to their e-mails, if they simply gave 5 million dollars each to Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and Tibet Fund.