Tag Archives: living social

Sensational Superbowl: Groupon Gets Offensive

8 Feb




1. Producing or designed to produce a startling effect, strong reaction, intense interest, etc., especially by exaggerated, superficial, or lurid elements: a sensational novel.

The Superbowl this year was a bit… sensational.  And by the Superbowl I mean everything surrounding the football game, not the football game itself. (That part I could honestly care less about) Christina Aguilera kicked things off with a bang by forgetting the lyrics to our national anthem, I made some out-of-this-world-slap-your-mama good nutella cupcakes, and oh… Groupon got offensive.

Oh yeah, all in all a pretty sensational Superbowl.

But let’s talk more about the real eye opener-  my cupcakes Groupon’s foray into TV advertising.  Just in case you haven’t seen the Superbowl spot that’s generating all the buzz, here it is:

Sensational. Downright offensive. And [just too damn] cocky.

Cocky? Because as it turns out, the ads were meant for good (say what?!)… and cocky because Groupon expected viewers to understand that they were poking fun of themselves, not Tibet… from 30 seconds that was void of any mention of charitable intentions. Hey Groupon, here’s a little lesson from advertising 101: You can’t assume the consumers know anything about your company/product/service going into watching your commercial.  What they see is what they get, so you need to ask yourself: is my message clear for my consumers?  Or is this ad just sensational?

I’m not sure Groupon asked themselves that question (is my message clear), and I’m not sure they even care, given this cocky response on their blog:

“We take the causes we highlighted extremely seriously – that’s why we created this campaign in partnership with many hallmark community organizations, for whom we’re raising money at SaveTheMoney.org. Groupon’s roots are in social activism – we actually began as cause-based website called The Point, and we continue to use Groupon to support local causes with our G-Team initiative. In our two short years as a business, we’ve already raised millions of dollars for national charities like Donors Choose and Kiva.

When we think about commercials that offend us, we think of those that glorify antisocial behavior – like the scores of Super Bowl ads that are built around the crass objectification of women. Unlike those ads, no one walks away from our commercials taking the causes we highlighted less seriously. Not a single person watched our ad and concluded that it’s cool to kill whales. In fact – and this is part of the reason we ran them – they have the opposite effect.

The firm that conceived the ad, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, strives to draw attention to the cultural tensions created by brands. When they created this Hulu ad, they highlighted the idea that TV rots your brain, making fun of Hulu. Our ads highlight the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues, making fun of Groupon. Why make fun of ourselves? Because it’s different – ads are traditionally about shameless self promotion, and we’ve always strived to have a more honest and respectful conversation with our customers. We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes – even if we didn’t take them as seriously as we do, what type of company would go out of their way to be so antagonistic?

We took this approach knowing that, if anything, they would bring more funding and support to the highlighted causes.”

(Read the full blog post here)

Ah, the distaste just keeps growing, Groupon.  Not only do I feel that you’re trying to make me feel stupid for not understanding your tongue-in-cheek approach in the first place, (since it was soo clearrlly obvious that as a company with a history of charitable donations you would only have the purest of intentions…) you’ve also managed to use your agency as a scape goat  (ohhh but this is the agency’s thing- ‘they draw attention to the cultural tensions created by brands…’) while clearing yourself of any wrong whatsoever (“what type of company would go out of their way to be so antagonistic?”).

News flash, Groupon. Your ad bombed. I get it- you’re known for being an ‘offbeat’ and a generally ‘tongue-in-cheek’ company. (I mean, who expected you to turn down $6 billion from Google?) But you have to use some common sense!  You can be tongue-in-cheek and not be offensive (in fact, your competitor Living Social did it quite well)– but you, Groupon, you just had a bad ad. Period.  A general rule of advertising: If you have to explain the punch line/message to the consumer, you didn’t do a good job- regardless if the ad is funny/sentimental/quirky, etc. It’s just plain advertising 101: consumers need to understand the message.

Another news flash- yes, Crispin is known for creating ‘sensational’ campaigns- they created the tongue-in-cheek Hulu campaign mentioned in your blog as well as the recent Dominos ‘turnaround’ campaign. But the difference between these ads and yours?  Hulu pokes fun at TV- it’s a video watching platform and Dominos criticizes it’s own pizza.  You poke fun of an entire country’s ‘very culture!’ See my point?  The other campaigns only featured themselves- the consumer couldn’t be confused as to what Hulu was making fun of or what Dominos was criticizing.  With your campaign and the addition of a 3rd party (or should I say country),  there is opportunity for the consumer to be confused as to who/what is the brunt of the joke.  And I think it’s pretty clear given the response to the ads and your quick reformatting of the ads that most consumers were confused.

So, the point? Sensationalism alone can’t sell a product.  Advertisers need to follow some basic 101 logic: is the message clear to consumers?  And Groupon, your message was for viewers to support various charitable causes, which was completely lost given your approach.  So while I applaud you for trying something new and for staying true to the quirky nature of your company, I think you got way too wrapped up in the ‘trying to be different’ approach to think about the campaign objectively.  It’s time you went to advertising/common sense 101 and gave us a real apology.


Living Social: Daily deal for a cable show?

14 Nov

Great Migrations

Could a cable channel use a Living Social deal (or another group buying platform) to promote tune in for a new show?

Example: Great Migrations on the National Geographic Channel

A quick synopsis:

“National Geographic Channel’s Great Migrations is a seven-part global television event that takes viewers around the world on the arduous journeys millions of animals undertake to ensure the survival of their species. Shot from land and air, in trees and cliff-blinds, on ice floes and underwater, Great Migrations tells the formidable, powerful stories of many of the planet’s species and their movements, while revealing new scientific discoveries with breathtaking high-definition clarity.”

I think Tom Shales of the Washington Post recapped the show best:

“‘Stunningly’ beautiful? ‘Rapturously’ beautiful? ‘Shockingly’ beautiful? You can marry a dozen adverbs to ‘beautiful’ and still not capture the compelling grandeur of ‘Great Migrations,’ a wondrous new jaw-dropper… [i]t’s movingly beautiful too, in both senses of ‘moving’ — physical and emotional.”

My first thought- wow, it’s a ‘global’ television event.  That’s huge!  Think of the millions of potential viewers not only in the US but around the world! And beautiful imagery of animals and the world around us?  You’ve got me hooked! But hmmm, the show also sounds a bit familiar… I’m thinking the BBC’s ‘Planet Earth’ and ‘Life’ sound quite similar (and yes, that’s not a typo- the BBC produced the films, not Discovery).  Both of these films were beautiful in their own right and are a standout in the natural history film category– but then again, so is Great Migrations.  While all 3 films are similar in genre, all 3 do offer something different for viewers.   The problem is to then convince the average viewer to tune into Great Migrations when they’re probably thinking, ‘I’ve seen that already… twice.’

I think the answer lies in marketing-  adding something different in the marketing plan.  Something to shake things up, reach new viewers, and perhaps get a little extra press.  What if Great Migrations (or any other major cable special) used the Living Social (or other group buying platform) platform as another advertising avenue?

Let me walk you through the idea:

First, how does Living Social work?  Basically, it’s an advertising outlet for small, local businesses.  Living Social offers discounts to email subscribers on anything from food to beauty to activities.   An example deal on Living Social— pay $15 for $30 worth of sushi at your favorite sushi bar.  The business and Living Social negotiate a deal on revenue per transaction, but unlike traditional advertising, businesses don’t pay anything upfront- they only pay on deals they sell (think like a 40/60 split on the $15- Living Social gets 40% of the listed price, the company pockets the 60%).  And Living Social’s email list isn’t small– think over 300,000 in the Northern Virginia area alone.   And Living Social is in over 100 US markets and 4 markets abroad– that’s quite an email list if you were to do a multi-market or even national deal.

For a small local business like our sushi bar,  think about advertising costs for reaching those 300,000 people in Northern Virginia through traditional print/television/outdoor advertising.  I’m just going to put it out there— it’s going to be a lot more than what the business will have to pay Living Social for the transactions.   And thinking grander (ahem Great Migrations grand), what’s it going to cost to reach an equivalent number of customers/viewers on Living Social’s global email list through traditional means?  Hmm, I’m thinking a lot, lot more.

Let’s talk worst/best case scenarios.

Worst case scenario– your deal is a stinker.  Out of the 300,000 emails Living Social sent out (still using a single market example), only 200 people bought into the deal.  For a small local business, this could still be huge- even if people didn’t buy the deal, they most likely read the email (an insider tells me Living Social has a significantly higher click through rate than most email blasts) and boom– free advertising.

Best case scenario- the deal is a whopping success- the huge increase in volume will more than make up for the discount in services/payment to Living Social.  Also, what’s the ratio of purchase to redemption?  It’s not even close to 100% my friends…  chances are, the business is getting lots of ‘free’ money when people forget to redeem before expiration.

How is this applicable to National Geographic and Great Migrations?  Why couldn’t there have been a Living Social deal for the National Geographic’s Great Migrations that offers a discount on Great Migrations/National Geographic merchandise?  The National Geographic store is online, so the deal could have been global (Living Social has distribution in UK and a few other European countries)- just like the show.  In fact, it could have been Living Social’s first global deal… pressworthy? new? different? I think so.

How National Geographic’s  Great Migrations could have promoted through Living Social:  offering a discount on Great Migrations merchandise (or general store merchandise) while promoting tune in for the show (through the ad copy).  A global deal could offer a whole new audience for National Geographic- I’m guessing the demographics for the Living Social distribution list are just a tad different than the demographics for the National Geographic distribution list.  And similar to most online stores, at point of purchase National Geographic asks the buyer if they would like to ‘opt out’ of the distribution list– you’re automatically opted in to the emails unless you decline.  So that means lasting benefits for National Geographic- an increase in global distribution and a wider demographic base.  And the cost?  Significantly less than a global marketing campaign through traditional means that would reach an equivalent number of people on Living Social’s global distribution list.

Here’s what I’m thinking the basic flow of the copy (not even pretending I could be a copywriter, so read for flow, not copy) could look like for the Living Social email blast:

Great Migrations premieres tonight at 8p.  What Great Migration is all about.  Great Migrations has great merchandise to accompany the show and it’s all available online at a discount through Living Social.

Living Social normally includes a picture of the company, so it could be a picture for Great Migrations that states tune in time and web address.  Or why not step things up a notch and have a video play when the picture is clicked— the trailer for the show.  I’m sure it’s more than possible to replace the picture with a video.

Man, this idea is getting better and better:  you have visual and video tune in for the show and a web address for Great Migrations  and the Nat Geo store.   And it’s fresh.  To my knowledge, no other cable channel has advertised through Living Social…and Living Social hasn’t done a global deal yet. Hmm, PR opportunity here for both parties?  “National Geographic goes beyond the traditional marketing mix and looks to social media for Great Migrations campaign– inks cable TV’s first Living Social deal .”  And conversely, “Living Social is the first daily deal site to have a global deal, partners with National Geographic Channel for the premiere of Great Migrations.”

What an intriguing concept- unlike traditional marketing where the company pays upfront to reach viewers, Living Social provides the opportunity for companies only to pay for those who buy in– yet the company still gets ‘free’ reach for those who are on the email distribution list.  Heck, even if 90% of the emails weren’t opened and there were only a few deals, Nat Geo didn’t pay a dime for waste— and let’s get real– advertisers want to avoid as much waste as possible.  (and there’s always waste, its the nature of the business)  Using Living Social could also extend the viewing experience, taking the show beyond the traditional screen.

So what do you think?  A new venture for cable channels to consider?  The idea of not paying for waste in advertising intrigues me- are there other options for advertisers that could result in less waste?

Here’s basically what the deal would look like:

Great Migrations Living Social

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