28 February, 2011


When the question came up, "How can we get customers in South Bend, Indiana, to come and try our delicious Margaritas?" how many ideas did they go through before they got to:

Hilarious send up of one of the largest mass suicides in recorded history!

Did they pass up a proposed idea featuring a rocket with the copy, "Take the Hacienda Challenger. It'll blow you away." Maybe a picture of a two-thumbs-up Ted Kazanski, noting, "It's Da-Bomb." Or perhaps...you know what I'll stop right there, because I think my Heaven's Gate and Branch Davidians headlines would pretty much be treading the same ground.

Now this Hacienda story is almost a week old, but in my defense I started writing this post last Tuesday.

And while Groupon's recent campaign doesn't quite measure up to Hacienda Mexican Restaurant's level of offensive stupidity, on the surface both are swimming in similar waters. Subsequently, both campaigns have been pulled.

Where Hacienda is concerned, this was just dumb. Poisoned Kool-Aid probably isn't the direction you want to go for a family restaurant. But how did they come upon this stroke of brilliant idiocy? I didn't see anywhere that this campaign was attributed to a particular agency, and comments from their VP of Sales and Marketing, Jeff Leslie, make me think this was an inside job. In the above article Leslie does place some blame on their creative process, but still pretty much bites the bullet for what amounted to a really bad decision.

Now I've had some pretty terrible ideas before, and usually someone points out why that idea is awful and my seed should stricken from the earth...often during meetings I'm not even involved in...Ken. But that makes me think this idea made it through because somebody higher up really liked it. So, again, kudos to VP Leslie for taking the pain on this, because if it wasn't his idea, it definitely had his support.

Back to Groupon. It really bothers me when companies cave on a campaign. Because much like Hacienda's billboards, the idea must have been pretty well-liked by a lot of people. The campaign was developed by industry giant Crispin Porter + Bogusky, responsible for the "Ozzy/Bieber Best Buy Buy-Back" Super Bowl commercial and Burger King's offbeat advertising for several years, among others like Microsoft and Domino's. Also, Groupon was willing to pay for Hollywood talent like Timothy Hutton, Elizabeth Hurley and Cuba Gooding, Jr. Oh, and they put up only a few million for a couple Super Bowl ads.

Translation: They REALLY liked this idea.

But, ooh people are offended. Let's kill it. Did they think people wouldn't be offended!

Save the whales: pollution is killing our planet.

Save the rain forests: pollution is killing our planet and eliminating potential undiscovered cures for a myriad diseases.

And finally, save Tibet: a culture consisting of nearly 3 million people being systematically dismantled by their own government. If Tibet were it's own autonomous nation, it would be larger than 1/3rd of the countries on the entire planet! And the Beastie Boys have been throwing concerts for them for years.


So why were they surprised? But putting that all aside, I still think it was genius. Not genius because it offended, but genius because of how much attention it brought Groupon. Think about it:

You missed the Super Bowl spot, luckily we were on the nightly news and all over the Web. Watch it again and despise us.

Oh, what do we do? WE SAVE YOU MONEY! I'm sure you've got money to spare, right?

No, well then push your offended conscience aside. Sign up. And save.

Because people love to feel like they made the right moral choice, but when money is tight, lots of people love to keep their money more. It's not the proudest outlook on humanity, but most westernized folks tend to like roofs, electricity and feeding their kids.

If you don't believe me that it's genius, take a quick look at Groupon. Now I'd been vaguely aware of Groupon for a little while, but began paying attention a few months back after frequently hearing about the service from coworkers and friends. It turns out Groupon is worth over a billion dollars, both Yahoo and Google attempted to purchase Groupon last year, and now the company is preparing an for IPO of $15 billion. You don't think a Super Bowl spot and intense media buzz will only bring them more attention--more attention than ho hum spots running during Days of Our Lives and The Price is Right.

Hacienda, seriously, what were you thinking? But nevermind that, I have this great idea where you should close all your restaurants and reopen them under the name "Hacienda Nueva" and only serve German food. Or perhaps just start offering a Crystal Burrito. Granted, Groupon could get too big too soon or go all Enron on us and completely implode. But I'd think about adding to them to your stock portfolio at least for the next year.

One more thing, apparently Greenpeace loved the Groupon ad. My mind, officially blown.

--George C. Convery, Copywriter


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