What would the Super Bowl be without a social-media fueled frenzy? And since this year's halftime show was too boring to cause any wardrobe-malfunction-type lashing by the online masses (I'm sorry, but Fergie singing Guns N' Roses? No thanks), it was up to some poorly-planned commercial to anger viewers.
Groupon did just that with their recent ad campaign featuring celebrities pleading for a charitable cause before abruptly pitching the daily-deal giant. People were not happy about Groupon poking fun at causes such as saving the rainforest or raising money for Tibet.
The CEO of Groupon took the blogosphere to defend the company, saying that the intention was to mock themselves and not the causes. He also pointed out that Groupon does give money to various causes, including those mentioned in the ads.
Maybe Groupon approved the ads knowing the amount of press they'd get based on the backlash? Maybe there just wasn't enough concept testing beforehand? Maybe it's as simple as a disconnect between the company's intention and how it was received. However, intentions don't mean much in the online space, because people are going rail against a company they feel is in the wrong regardless of what the company intended.
Personally, I've seen the ads and even though I'm not necessarily offended by them, I don't see how Groupon could think the commercials are in any way self-deprecating. But controversies like this are a perfect example of why you really need to have a grasp on your audience's perceptions of your ad campaigns.