One of the world’s most revered cultures and religious histories has been threatened with death and extinction in Tibet for decades at the hands of the authoritarian Chinese government; Groupon’s Super Bowl advertisement about Tibet (below) was based on a joke drastically reducing the seriousness of that suffering. Not all hope is lost, the ad says, because at least there are still refugees that will cook discounted food for White people! Many people on Twitter reacted very negatively to the ad. This is my best explanation why it was offensive. Not everyone agrees – we’ve got a debate going in comments below which we invite you to participate in.
The joke was intended to be absurd, but the absurdity presumed a lack of seriousness in the whole matter. It was an attempt at post-serious humor – but most people with common sense agree that the struggles of Tibet still deserve respect and seriousness. The joke is on anyone who really cares. It came across as the kind of out-of-touch humor that overprivileged, spiritually mean, advertising industry creatives (specifically, the kind that kids refer to as “douchebags”) would come up with. That’s one explanation why the commercial was offensive, but view it below and offer your own if you like. Another perspective: As Rabbi Eliyahu Fink said on Twitter tonight, “Amazing. More people are offended by Groupon’s ads than the coarse objectification of women in EVERY SINGLE OTHER AD!”
As the industry blog PaidContent says, Super Bowl XLV: The People Of Groupon Are In Trouble. The Groupon ad was created by well-known advertising firm Crispin Porter & Bogusky, makers of the Subservient Chicken ad for Burger King, and others.
There’s a line between “wacky” on one side and stupid on the other. Sometimes, in today’s cultural climate, it’s hard to tell one side from another. Sometimes it’s not so hard. The rise of non-traditional voices in the media, thanks to the proliferation of social media publishing tools (along with other factors), has caused some people to be confused about whether or not basic human decency remains important. E.g. “Anyone can be media now, so media can say anything!” Maybe they never really got it in the first place.
Groupon ran a number of ads tonight and the website for the campaign includes calls to donate to charities related to the issues parodied. Groupon was born as a website called The Point, which let people vote on non-profit issues that needed attention – but has since become an email coupon service that some have said is now the fastest-growing business in history.