Groupon Super Bowl advertisement offends viewers

Super Bowl commercials, a yearly advertising highlight for many viewers, generally attract a great deal of attention. This year, one particular advertisement made a big splash. Groupon, a U.S.-based company that offers discounts to users from different local restaurants and companies, angered and offended viewers with its ad.

During said ad, actor Timothy Hutton appears to be bringing awareness of an international travesty to light. He looks to the camera and says, “The Tibetan people are in trouble. Their culture is in jeopardy.” Then the camera zooms out to show a Himalayan restaurant in Chicago, and in an enthusiastic tone, Hutton adds, “But they still whip up an amazing fish curry!”

Hutton then talks about a 50 percent discount he and other Groupon users received from the Himalayan restaurant in Chicago. Not only did this ad succeed in bringing American consumerism to a whole new level, but it also trivialized the plight of the Tibetan people.

We think the ad was shallow and thoughtless, in addition to having little relevance to the purpose of the advertisement: to entice viewers to buy discounted merchandise.

The ad, which originally garnered criticism from Super Bowl viewers, has since become an international issue, as its humor fell flat with Chinese Internet users. Tibet has long been a source of domestic and international conflict for China ever since the country took over the region in 1951. As a result, much of Tibet’s unique Buddhist practices, cultural events, and spiritual traditions have been outlawed. Following an uprising in 1959, the Dalai Lama was forced into exile along with many of his followers.

Groupon claims the ad was created with the intent to generate support for the Tibet Fund, an organization that aims to preserve Tibetan culture. Similarly, Groupon’s other two ads, which featured Cuba Gooding Jr. talking about whales and Elizabeth Hurley talking about Brazil, were also meant to raise money for Greenpeace. All three ads were allegedly created to encourage viewers to give through a donation-accepting website, The site, however, was never mentioned in the ads and was taken down on Friday.

An ad that makes light of a country’s 50-year-long struggle against a ruling power is certainly not in best taste for Groupon, a company that has been attempting to enter the Chinese market for some time. Groupon Chief Executive Andrew Mason has apologized, pulled the ads, and promised a less-polarizing approach in future commercials.

While we at The Tartan certainly cannot support Groupon’s misguided attempt at irony, we are grateful that the company has owned up to its mistakes, and we hope it will make smarter advertising decisions in the future.