Ads that blithely ignore world outside of America

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Advertising, Cultural awareness, Marketing, Public Relations

One response to “Ads that blithely ignore world outside of America

  1. g2lls

    I often wonder about the decision-making process at these companies: Do they not even realize there may be a cultural issue or something offense? On the other hand, do they realize it and decide that it is funny anyway, and should run [it]? I wish I knew the answer to that.

    I have heard some companies voice frustration about trying to make everything so “politically correct” for everyone and I understand that to a point but, especially with a major EXPENSIVE ad campaign, there has to be way to make sure that you don’t alienate some of the viewers. Unless that is part of the strategy, is negative press better than no press?

    I just know that, as a small business, we are careful in everything we do. Why would a large business not have other safeguards in place or at least a third party to say, “that’s not right…”? I will give everyone, including Groupon, the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to make one mistake. We will see if it happens again in the future!!

    Grace Bosworth
    Pres, Global2Local Language Solutions

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