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Watch: Controversial Christopher Guest Directed Super Bowl Spots For Groupon

Watch: Controversial Christopher Guest Directed Super Bowl Spots For Groupon

This writer certainly didn’t watch the game or the unbearable hours long pre-show, and really, all we cared about were the movie spots during the Super Bowl, but of course, there were plenty of non-film related ads that aired as well and among those still creating chatter after the game was a series of three commercials for group-buying site Groupon.

Starring Timothy Hutton, Elizabeth Hurley and Cuba Gooding Jr. (his best role in years), the each spot began as a typical PSA before turning on a dime and tying in the savings you can have by participating in Groupon buying. Among the interwebs, many thought the ads were in poor taste but post-game, some interesting details have come forth that might explain the joke. Firstly, Groupon started as a crowd-sourcing philanthropy site The Point, so the joke about doing some good for humanity/the planet is very much at their own expense, and secondly, the spots were helmed by none other than mockumentary legend Christopher Guest. So are the ads funnier now that you know this? For this writer, he found it kind of amusing the first time around the spots didn’t ruffle his feathers, but different strokes for different folks and all that jazz. You can check out an excerpt of Groupon’s full explanation as well as the spots below and see what the hubbub is all about. [via Cinematical]

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”)?

Since we grew out of a collective action and philanthropy site ( and ended up selling coupons, we loved the idea of poking fun at ourselves by talking about discounts as a noble cause. So we bought the spots, hired mockumentary expert Christopher Guest to direct them, enlisted some celebrity faux-philanthropists, and plopped down three Groupon ads before, during, and after the biggest American football game in the world.

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Christopher Bell

I can’t believe people are still saying “epic fail.”


these are great…
the writing and the tone of all three of them make it pretty obvious what the intention is…the Hutton one is paced poorly, but the flippant tone of the dialog and delivery keeps it from being in bad taste…

those who are objecting to these ads are just more examples of over-sensitive, entitled idiots…


I just saw the Cuba one, and was wondering what they were going to say about how whales could be saved or exactly what threat they were going to address, then it turned into a Groupon ad, and it seemed like a parody of what an advertising agency would think is funny… because it wasn’t actually funny, it was more like a parody of what was supposed to be funny but fails to be funny and then turns the market against the client that asked for an ad campaign…. as they say…. EPIC FAIL! This wasn’t in a comedy movie about an inept ad campaign… it really was the ad campaign… now that’s kind of funny. But not like they intended.

Mr. C

I think the Timothy Hutton advertisement is just written in such a way that it digs its own grave when talking about “the people of Tibet are in trouble”. Since we are talking about people that really puts a human face on it coupled with the fact that we see so the CU shot of the Tibetan man which makes you more empathetic to their plight and at that moment you really aren’t in the mood for a joke nor is there enough levity within the scene to make you shake loose that sad empathy built up in the first half of the ad.

The Cuba Gooding one is great and the Hurley one isn’t so bad but it is still has a more abrupt transition. The punch line is much better for this ad however and I think it successfully pulls the viewer out of any distress about the state of our rainforest.

One ad poorly crafted ruins the rest of them. Maybe if the Hutton one had been the last one seen the premise for the ad would have carried on and made that one less of a shock.

Mr. Chicago


Elizabeth Hurley…I really do love the site, but the editing sometimes is terrible.

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