I am not a football fan, but I can recall a certain Groupon Super Bowl ad with Timothy Hutton in it. I like Mr. Hutton as an actor, but if the flurry of negative tweets is to be believed, the ad makes light reference to Tibet, which is a faux pas in advertising (or it should be). Click on the following image to read the article.
Super Bowl games are no longer viewed only in America. According to Initiative, a New York-based media research firm, the 2005 Super Bowl event attracted about 2 million viewers outside of the United States.
One of the most difficult things to translate or convey in another culture is humor and jokes. If you are a multinational corporation or a company that is trying to stretch your business horizons overseas, you cannot claim ignorance or innocence when your advertising is deemed unfunny, even offensive, in other countries, even in foreign enclaves within the United States.
Andrew Mason, Groupon’s founder, issued an apology and the ad was pulled afterwards. The Super Bowl championship is the biggest event in America, and advertising during the Super Bowl is the most expensive of the year. So, it was not a matter of cost, but of awareness.
The moral of the story seems to be this: don’t be penny wise and pound foolish, do your homework on the language, culture or country you are targeting your product or service.