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Critics Still Complaining About GroupOn Joke That Fell Flat

Actor Timothy Hutton in Super Bowl ad for GroupOn

Nearly 24 hours after posting a (now and seemingly forever, judged) controversial Super Bowl ad, GroupOn was still getting pilloried on the Internet as being insensitive and for seemingly making light of the Tibet-China dispute.

"The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy," actor Timothy Hutton said in a voice over during the first part of the ad, which first ran on Sunday. The camera then shifted to a shot of Hutton sitting down for a meal in a restaurant announcing: "But they still whip up an amazing fish curry," explaining the 50% discount issued by Groupon.

OK, a bit edgy - which is what you'd expect given that GroupOn hired "Best in Show" impresario Christopher Guest to direct the spot. But the blowback on the Internet came as a surprise to GroupOn, which felt compelled to clarify its aims in a subsequent post on its website:

"The gist of the concept is this: When groups of people act together to do something, it's usually to help a cause. With Groupon, people act together to help themselves by getting great deals. So what if we did a parody of a celebrity-narrated, PSA-style commercial that you think is about some noble cause (such as 'Save the Whales'), but then it's revealed to actually be a passionate call to action to help yourself (as in 'Save the Money')?"

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Was GroupOn indeed as clueless as Kenneth Cole? Last week the fashion house designer was forced to apologize after using the demonstrations in Egypt as the jumping off point to plug the company's new spring collection. After all,  once people got to the company's website, they would be able to donate to charities of their choice. Or was this more evidence that we've indeed turned into the mirthless, politically correct society that some keep railing about? You have to wonder.

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