Groupon's Super Bowl Ad-It's Good and Bad For the Tibetans
Groupon, the coupon company, paid $3 million dollars to air an ad during the 2011 Super Bowl that managed to be in such poor taste it offended nearly everyone — but for different reasons. The Chinese government didn’t like it as it highlighted a situation they would rather have overlooked. Having just last night watched 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama, a film by Rick Ray, it's odd to wake up this morning to this news.
Groupon's ad starts with gorgeous shots of Tibetan mountains, child monks blowing traditional horns with snowy peaks in the background, while in voice-over we hear actor Tim Hutton, describing the troubles of the Tibetan people. Cut to him sitting in a restaurant grinning broadly and he says but they "still whip up an amazing fish curry!" as a vaguely Tibetan-looking man brings him food. We are then encouraged to "save the money." Rather than "save the people."
The ad shied away from showing any disturbing images of the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet in 1951. They systematically destroyed Buddhist temples, burned and destroyed texts and artifacts and beat monks/nuns and others. The Dalai Lama himself was forced to flee over treacherous mountains to safety in India, where he lives in exile.
Groupon says it was meant to be a parody or satire; it misses it’s mark, badly. The ad does, but it was 30 seconds.
I did some research and in fact to it's credit, Groupon set up SaveTheMoney.org, where people can see additional ads, and donate money to four “featured charities” — Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, buildOn, and the Tibet Fund. Groupon says it will match any donations contributed through their site up to $100,000. At the section for Tibet Fund you are encourage to give $15 and Groupon will match it. There they give further information on Tibet and the charity with a link to the Tibet Fund, which apparently the Dalai Lama supports.
So I think it’s a matter of poor taste and expediency “to sell in 30 seconds.” But it looks very much as if their capitalist hearts were in the right place; they are serving themselves and helping others. Now $3 million dollars for 30 seconds — that really needs to be questioned.