Right before, during, and after the Super Bowl, Groupon ran three different ads for their online coupon site.
Watch this one and see what you think.
Immediately after these aired, twitter and other news sites were abuzz with disdain for the tasteless nature of the ads. Why did these ads fall short?
Groupon intended this as a sarcastic ad which poked fun at consumerism in light of Tibet’s fading cultural heritage. It starts as a public service announcement for the plight of the Tibetan people, it ends with Timothy Hutton telling you he just saved $15 on his dinner. For a further explanation of the ad, here is Groupon’s reasoning behind it.
Being able to understanding sarcasm changes with age. Children, under 12, primarily use intonation as the cue for sarcasm (Capelli, Nakagawa, & Madden, 1990). Adults, however, are able to use intonation or contextual information. In this commercial though, both cues that usually signal sarcasm lead you to the wrong conclusion. The sarcastic context is subtle and there is no intonation to lead viewers to the sarcastic meaning. Without more information, viewers easily misinterpret the ad’s context and assume Groupon is trying to profit and make fun of Tibetans and their plight.
Because the sarcasm in Groupon’s joke fell flat for many watching, maybe advertisers should stick with associating sex (or sexy women) with their product (see below for an example).
Capelli, C., Nakagawa, N., & Madden, C. (1990). How Children Understand Sarcasm: The Role of Context and Intonation Child Development, 61 (6) DOI: 10.2307/1130840