Groupon’s controversial Super Bowl ads poking fun at various causes and the celebrities who promote them—endangered whales, the destruction of the Brazilian rainforest, and the plight of the people of Tibetreceived much criticism and wrung an apology out of its CEO. But there was a point of view that any press is good press and some evidence that the buzz on Groupon was long, loud, and trending positive in social media circles.

The Groupon case was a point of some disagreement when The Brainzooming Group and various other contributors discussed what lessons smaller businesses could learn from the hits and misses of the mega advertisers on the February 11, 2011 edition of Smart Companies Radio.

It now appears that while people may have been talking about Groupon, what they weren’t doing was going to the Groupon website and registering for its service.

Fast Company reports that according to Nielsen, Groupon’s web traffic increased only 3% in the week following the Super Bowl compared to the week before. Other Super Bowl advertisers fared much better. GoDaddy.com was up 41%, Volkswagen 27%, Homeaway.com 27%, and Mercedes Benz 9%.

There is a certain paradox here. Few would argue that the Groupon ads are that much more repulsive than the GoDaddy spots. Yet the GoDaddy ads generated little controversy and produced outstanding results. I can think of two reasons the GoDaddy ads work and the Groupon ones do not. First, we have come to expect a certain level of sophomoric humor and sexist leering from the GoDaddy brand. The ads may not be laudable, but they fulfill our brand expectations. Making fun of downtrodden peoples is not what we expect from Groupon.

Secondly the GoDaddy ads have a clear call to action. “Go to our website to see what we couldn’t show you here.” Groupon’s say you can save money, but they never even go so far as to show you the full web address. – Barrett Sydnor

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at [email protected]or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help enhance your marketing strategy and implementation efforts.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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4 Responses to “Groupon – Further Evidence Its Controversial Ads Messed Up”

  1. Jim Joseph says:

    Well there you have it. The Super Bowl spend was huge and the social media buzz was at more than audible levels. If their “conscious” strategy was working, then sales would have spiked. Clearly, conscious or not (I for one think it was just being naive and a poor attempt at satire), the strategy didn’t work. Jim

  2. Julia Goebel says:

    Agreed – Groupon’s spots missed the mark – big time! Their miss is magnified now by the well-executed spots bycompetitor LivingSocial. Check ’em out, if you haven’t seen them yet.

    What’s interesting about the web traffic data above is that you need to take into account the content of the spots. GoDaddy used their air time to introduce a new product – the new .co (company) domain. Only way to get it? Go to GoDaddy.com to buy your domain(s) before others do. So their traffic spike after the Super Bowl makes a lot of sense – and isn’t necessarily a fair comparison.

    Always enjoy your commentary on advertising, Barrett. Thanks.

  3. Julia Goebel says:

    Agreed – Groupon missed the mark, big time. And their miss is further magnified in contrast to the well-executed spots by competitor LivingSocial. (Worth a look, if you haven’t seen them yet)

    What’s interesting and worth noting about the post-Super Bowl web traffic data you cite is the objective of each spot. Yes, GoDaddy always gets buzz for their approach, but this time their traffic resulted from the new product they announced. With the introduction of the .co domain, businesses and web services companies scrambled to register URLs before competitors did. The only way to do that? Go to GoDaddy.com. Their traffic spike after the Super Bowl is because of the new product, in addition to the raunchy approach.

    Always enjoy your analysis, Barrett! Go Tigers.

    • Barrett Sydnor says:

      Julia, thank you and very good point on the new product intro by GoDaddy. Surely made its call to action have that much more impact. They also didn’t let the message “We got something new” get lost in the execution.

      And yes, Go Tigers.