The following memo, penned by someone other than Groupon’s CEO, was not posted on Groupon’s blog yesterday:

Dear Customers, Super Bowl Viewers and Ad Critics:

What a game! I personally thought the Steelers were going to come back with 2 minutes left like they did against the Cardinals, but hey, that’s football.

Hope you liked our ads this year, too! Traffic to our site shot up sharply after the game and the upwards trajectory continues, with a significant uptick in sales, too. We’re thrilled that people have responded the way they have and we hope that you, too, are joining the mobs of people taking advantage of savings in your neighborhoods.

For those of you who (sniff) might have been somewhat to moderately offended by our ads during the game, understand this. We’re an irreverent group here. We’ve got a bit of an off-beat sense of humor. Our customers pretty much get this already, so if you’re new to our brand, we might take a minute to get used to. On the other hand, if you’re hoping for an apology, an act of public repentance, or possibly a short stint in a rehab center somewhere, please do us this one small favor:

Get over yourself.

We don’t apologize for who we are. Ever. Who we are is who we are, and humor – even slightly off-color and occasionally wince-inducing – is as central to our DNA as our extraordinarily poor taste in music. Not to mention our awful sense of fashion. If you don’t get us, that’s OK. Our ads may not be for everyone. But we’re pretty sure that if you get the point – that you can join up with lots of other people and get discounts on things you want – then you’re going to become a customer.

Did we get your attention? Great. See you next Super Bowl. My money’s on New England. And those rumors about the new Michael Vick spot? We can neither confirm nor deny at this time. Thanks!


Groupon’s (not) CEO

Instead of the above, Groupon’s response via their blog was to deflect criticism to Go Daddy (they’re so much worse!), to their agency CP+B (It was them! THEM! Not us!), and to claim that they’re really good people under it all (we’re giving money away to the charities that were most offended, don’t worry.

Instead of parsing through this weak stew of excuses, let’s listen to someone with a bit more gravity – and who has more experience in dealing with controversy.

When I spoke with Go Daddy’s Bob Parsons, he described in detail what went wrong with Sales Genie’s response to criticism of its Super Bowl spot a few years ago:

“Everybody got all over Sales Genie this guy in his Super Bowl ad. What the Sales Genie guy did is pull his ads. He shut it down completely, he didn’t even let them see it on his website. He made about as big a mistake as he could make.”

“The thing to do is go head to head with these people and defend it. You win on both sides. It was lighthearted, there wasn’t anything wrong with it, but you had these pundits say, ‘This is wrong… you can’t do this,’ and he was horrified that he did it… well, to me there was a check waiting for him to cash that he ripped up and threw away. His ad did good, but had he handled it right it could have been a homerun.”

Three bits of advice to conclude:

  1. If you went to the trouble – and the expense – of running a Super Bowl spot, I’m going to assume you thought things through. I’m assuming you considered a potential Motrin Mom moment where a small but vocal minority rose up and tweeted their moral indignation.
  2. If you were OK with it before it ran, why did you back down? We don’t have a lot of respect for people who turn tail and run at the first sign of push-back. Stick up for yourself. Because if you don’t, we won’t.
  3. If you didn’t think things through this time, do your homework next time.  

If the intent of the ads, as the blog post says, was to highlight the plight of the whales, the Tibetans and the rainforest and show their financial support of them, they missed the mark by a wide margin. Understanding why is pretty easy – they didn’t mention it in their ads. If their roots are in non-profit, they made some bad choices in creative and probably need to re-think how they interact with their agency.

As for a takeaway to all this, I suggest you do the following: do your homework up front, make up your mind, put it out there, and stick to it. Be comfortable enough with who you are – assuming you know who you are – and be prepared to defend yourself.

If you can’t defend yourself to the dozen or so people who are temporarily offended, you’re going to lose the other 55% of us who actually respect you.