While every year there are bad ads, the truly horribly ones go above and beyond to actually damage the brand they were supposed to promote. Assuming the point was not to distract from Christina Aguilera’s mangling of the National Anthem, Groupon’s ads seem to fall into the latter category (see instant reaction on Slurp140).

Groupon’s Tibet Ad

A short sampling of the headlines tells you just about everything you need to know. For those of you interested in following the ongoing PR disaster on Twitter, we set up a new Slurp140 this morning. We thought about limiting the inclusion of tweets about coupons, but at the same time we wonder if those re-tweeting a coupon link are unaware, spam-bots or just don’t care. http://www.slurp140.com/couponads/ 

“Groupon spends big on controversial (tasteless?) Super Bowl spots” CNN Money
And the Most Offensive Super Bowl Ad Goes To: Groupon?” Time
Groupon Tibet ad discounts taste, sensitivity”  Chiago Tribute
Did we just witness a $3 million, celeb-filled Groupon #FAIL?”- Social Media Influence.

At least one excellent post goes above and beyond to recommend some steps for Groupon to possibly recover:

Groupon: When Being Clever Offends and How to Win One for Tibet”  By Liz Strauss

“Clever isn’t clever when it offends. The problem with clever ideas is that they are a social thing. Clever only works where trust already exists. Clever is risky because it gets us looking at ourselves not the people we’re talking to. Clever backfires completely in a venue or a community where people don’t know us yet. “

Liz also goes onto suggest an action plan and possible steps to recover. All of which are very well written and great ideas to consider. I would however respectfully disagree with the idea that Groupon should do anything more than apologize profusely about their ad, which includes attempting to change the subject to raising $ for Tibet.   In political advertising, one of the general rules is that you never spend your own money to draw attention to or repeat a negative attack (See Christine O’Donnell’s “I am not a witch ad”). In this respect the quicker Groupon can change the subject, the better. Something along the lines of their unsubscribe page in which the advertising execs eat some serious humble pie would be best.

Other recommended resources for tracking the buzz about Super Bowl ads include: YouTube’s AdBlitz as well as  Boston.com’s Brand Bowl and Hulu’s AdZone.