As I’m sure you all have heard by now, the Internet giant Groupon has dumped the agency CP&B following some risqué ads featured during the Super Bowl and on Hulu.com. (And if you haven’t heard by now, read more here)
In Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason said he placed too much trust in the agency “to be edgy, informative and entertaining, and we turned off the part of our brain where we should have made our own decisions. We learned that you can’t rely on anyone else to control and maintain your own brand.”
In the ads, celebrity spokespeople made light of international aid-related causes, drumming up a fair amount of criticism and opinion. I have a couple issues with this scenario, and none of them revolve around the crass humor featured in the ad. First of all, when you take a risk, you take the risk understanding that you may alienate a small percentage of potential consumers. (Or were they really potential consumers???) You take the risk to make a statement, to set yourself apart for a variety of reasons. I have no issue with companies taking risks in advertising; it’s bold, usually well-calculated, and marks specific territory in a target market. However, when risks are taken, you, Mr. Marketer, must stand beside that decision good, bad, or indifferent – which brings me quickly to my second issue with the Groupon/CP&B scenario.
Mr. Mason is quick to blame the agency’s handling of the Groupon brand; and only blaming Groupon in that they allowed someone else to make decisions in regard to controlling/maintaining the Groupon brand. Mr. Mason – a reminder – someone at Groupon approved the creative direction presented by CP&B. Someone at Groupon appreciated and approved the risk of running the ads created. No one other than Groupon controlled the maintenance of the Groupon brand. How quick we, as a society, are to displace blame when the situation doesn’t work out for a happy ending? I can’t help but wonder, if the ads received positive accolades of any nature, would CP&B received any of that blame? Or would have a positive impact resulted in greater accolades of the genius at Groupon working on their brand?
Taking a risk? Stand by it. Doesn’t work out? Accept your part in the blame – don’t pass it down the line.
“That’s all I have to say about that.” – Forrest Gump.