There is only one lesson for any company wishing to do business in China from the debacle over Groupon’s parodic Tibet TV ad (see below) aired during America’s Superbowl on Sunday. When it comes to Tibet, Beijing doesn’t have a sense of humor. Period.
Perhaps, two lessons. Bad ads are bad ads anywhere.
Some links for further reading:
- A post from Groupon’s corporate blog, written before the ad aired, explaining the company’s “peculiar sense of humor” and its thinking behind the ads;
- Shanghaiist rounds up the true cost to Groupon’s ambitions in China;
- The home page of Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, the creative agency that produced the ads and which is bravely/brazenly streaming a far-from complimentary Twitter feed about its work;
- Update: Groupon CEO Andrew Mason’s defense of the ad.
Set aside the special edgy culture of Superbowl ads, CP+B’s lack of China experience and its background in viral marketing, where parody and reality often seem interchangeable, but did no one there or at Groupon really see this coming? Our first thought was to recall Brendan Behan’s much quoted adage, “There is no such thing as bad publicity”. Then we remembered his full quote, “There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary”.