After watching the Groupon ads today I just had to write this quick blog post.
For most of us, a major highlight of the Super Bowl is the creative advertisements punctuating each break in the game. Brands and advertising agencies really put their noggins together to make sure they are getting the most bang for their buck in these astronomically expensive ad spots. But sometimes there are flubs or ads that push the limits of acceptable in order to garner mass press (remember the launch of the Godaddy Girls?). This time around one of the most talked about controversial ad campaigns was Groupon’s tactless bait-and-switch commercials.
If you haven’t seen the Groupon ads view a couple below:
We all love a good joke, but these ads were not really even funny. They are the kind of ads that a creative team may have come up with when they were still at the drawing board, but they should have never actually gone “to print.” Now this, of course, is just my opinion (well, and that of a few other people, too) but this is the point at which branding, including a set of company/brand values would have saved them from themselves.
The other day I was revisiting the book Rework and one particular concept stood out to me–an advantage of being “small”. In a chapter titled “Welcome Obscurity” the authors talk about being in the early stages of business. Specifically they say “Use this time to make mistakes without the whole world hearing about them…Keep Tweaking. Try new things.” When you’re the little guy and you haven’t built a large following yet you can test out some of your hair-brained ideas without the repercussions that a larger brand, like Groupon, will have to deal with. Groupon has really illustrated this point, we’re all going to make mistakes, but let’s try to do it when 100 million people AREN’T watching.
An article on CNN.com entitled “Groupon spends big on controversial (tasteless?) Super Bowl spots“ theorizes that dot.com startups like Groupon have acted like they were already established brands when they decided to shell out the dough for Super Bowl ad spots. Steve McKee, president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland (an ad firm) is quoted in the article as saying, “When you’re introducing a new concept to the marketplace, you have to focus more on positioning, rather than personality.” I do agree, to a certain extent that is. In this situation however I theorize that Groupon was actually acting like “too small” of a company, believing that an inside joke they found funny would resonate with the market. It may have been better to think it through a little further.
The sad thing is that Groupon apparently is actually donating a portion of their proceeds to the charitble causes it pokes fun at in their ads. Perhaps if they had actually communicated that fact the ads would not have left such a bad taste in our mouths. As for the rest of us–if your business is still “small” try a few things, but remember to always default back to your original brand values as your guide.
That’s my take on it anyway. What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions on this subject.
Oh & here’s Conan’s take on the Groupon ads: