I thought everyone had heard of Groupon. I can even remember a friend telling her 70 year old grandfather about the discount website and he replied, “Oh yeah, I have an app for that.” Granted, this grandfather is very trendy haha.

Until now, Groupon had just relied on word-of-mouth marketing with limited traditional advertising. According to Groupon’s blog they had given in and decided to do a television advertisement during the Super Bowl XLV. The company explains the reasons for restraining, “More importantly, television ads are such a huge creative statement, and so hard to do well, that we were worried it’d be near impossible to find an ad agency that could make ads we’d be confident in airing.”

The advertisements aired during the most watched television event in history with 162.9 million viewers. The ads feature two washed up celebrities telling us which cause we should care most about, then morph it into a pitch for Groupon.

There was a firestorm of blog posts and news articles written about Groupon in February about people being outraged that the ad highlighted the difficulty in Tibet. Obviously the company is regretting their decision now that Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason is blaming the ad agency and saying he put too much trust in them.

A lot of the negativity could have been avoided if the ad explained Groupon’s charitable donation-matching that is listed on their website. It could have made viewers realize the company isn’t poking fun of the issues; they’re trying to raise money to help.

The CEO’s apology and decision to pull the ads was a chance at saving the company’s image, but I really think Groupon’s PR department from here on out needs to step up and be the center of their decision team. If the company doesn’t come out with the right crisis communication actions then it would really damage their business.

But honestly, if you have to post a lengthy explanation of your advertisements on your blog then you might need to ask yourself before releasing it if people are going to get the “joke.” Is there really a right way to make jokes about human tragedy?