Super Bowl 2011: Why Groupon's Tibet Ad Might Be the Most Offensive of All Time

Jeff Kayer@thereal_kmanCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2011

Photo Courtesy of www.groupon.com
Photo Courtesy of www.groupon.com

Every year, tens of millions of people come together to watch the worldwide spectacle that is the Super Bowl.

We eat food that our doctors would scream at us about, drink anything from Coke to Captain Morgan and sit and watch not only the game, but the 60 or so advertisements that play during the break as well.

We all know by now that the Super Bowl commercials have become an event in their own right, with many viewers these days conversing during the game and focusing on the ads instead.

We all wait in anticipation of which company will outdo the other in terms of immature humor, sex appeal or, in some cases that are becoming increasingly rare, family and togetherness.

How popular have Super Bowl ads become, you may ask? It now costs companies $3 million for just a 30-second spot.

I, like millions of other people last night, was excited to see some creative masterpieces. Would we see some new future pop culture references introduced like we've had with the Budweiser frogs, Reebok's Terry Tate or even a new talking baby?

No, we got stuck with the drivel of last night that included resuscitation of a dead grandparent, sniffing up someone's pants, an infant being thrown into a wall and loads of middle school sexual references (Pepsi Max, where a guy only says, "I want to sleep with her" as a great example).

Ultimately, they all paled in comparison to what I can only describe as possibly the most offensive advertisement of all time. I don't know what Groupon is, and after last night, I certainly do not care. Apparently, it's a group where if you and friends sign up, you can save money on food and entertainment.

However, that message was lost by many, including myself, after watching an ad that at first looked like a public service announcement about the ongoing atrocities in Tibet—Timothy Hutton saying in a monotone voice, "Tibet is in trouble."

It appeared that in a myriad of ads of 12year-old humor, we finally had something we could take seriously. That was until we heard Hutton become upbeat about how good his Tibetan fish curry was and how cheap it was thanks to Groupon.

There are those in the world that won't understand why this is truly offensive, and I'm hoping Groupon's owners and advertisers are amongst that group. Tibet was invaded by the Chinese government in 1950, stripping the Tibetan people of their rights and killing hundreds of thousands of them in the process. Click here (http://www.freetibet.org/about/10-facts-about-tibet) to read 10 facts about the region. It is an ongoing struggle that shows no signs of getting better.

Still, you might be asking, was this ad truly that offensive? I then ask you, imagine a company that talks about the six million Jewish people that were killed in the Holocaust, only to then talk about the great bagels and rye bread they make. While the possibility of an ad like this being produced was once thought as inconceivable, after last night, anything might be possible.

A few days from now, few will remember this ad. Life will go on, and sports fans will look forward to March Madness and baseball seasons, while advertisers will devise plans of how to one-up the competition.

However, last night marked an important time for American pop culture to me. Super Bowl commercials once had cute animals selling products, or a player like Mean Joe Greene giving a boy a jersey. Sure, some of the humor was immature, but it was family-friendly.

Last night, though, a line seemed to be crossed. Whether it was the Tibet ad or the many others that didn't even try to be subtle regarding their sexual references (cramming it in the boot?), it became downright uncomfortable for some parents to have their small children watch what should have been a hotly contested Super Bowl.

It should also be noted that an ad by a group called Home Away was horribly offensive in its own right, poking fun at child maltreatment when an infant was accidentally thrown into a wall, as viewers got see the child do a face plant. For the parents who have seen a newborn die at the hands of child abuse or maltreatment, I doubt they found that very humorous.

Many of these companies are receiving a significant amount of backlash for their awful ads last night, and deservedly so. One can only hope that this is a lesson for companies moving forward—that there are still some limits to what we enjoy during those two minutes between the action on the field.