GroupOn Pulls Ads That Offended, Confused Super Bowl Viewers

Company CEO: “If an ad requires an explanation, that means it didn’t work”

Last Updated: February 11, 2011 @ 10:09 AM

GroupOn says it has pulled the ads it debuted during the Super Bowl that started out like public service announcements and then changed abruptly into come-ons for group savings offers.

The ads, which seemed initially like they were were trivializing the charities they featured, were actually part of a GroupOn effort to raise money for those very causes. If that all sounds complicated, it was — as company CEO Andrew Mason acknowledged in a blog post.

Also read: GroupOn's Weird Ads, Explained

"Five days have passed since the Super Bowl, and one thing is clear – our ads offended a lot of people," he wrote. "Tuesday I posted an explanation, but as many of you have pointed out, if an ad requires an explanation, that means it didn’t work."

Mason, who took responsibility for the ads, said a few may air today but that he expected that to be the last of them. 

Mason also said he expected to raise $500,000 for the charities featured in the ads.

The ads featured Timothy Hutton, Elizabeth Hurley and Cuba Gooding, Jr. promoting GroupOn and trying to raise money for The Tibet Fund, the Rainforest Action Network, and Greenpeace. Another ad, featuring Sheryl Crow, was supposed to help buildOn but wasn't completed in time for the Super Bowl.

A website built around the ad campaign, SaveTheMoney.org, which had featuring the ads, was taken down. Those who clicked on it were redirected to GroupOn's normal offers.

The Hutton ad: