What Really Rankled People About Those Groupon Super Bowl Ads

I was struck by the uproar Groupon's Christopher Guest-directed ads caused. Both ads begin like public-service announcements for causes before mutating into ads exhorting us to "Save the Money." People responded to the company's commercials with a kind of, "How dare they!" sort of outrage.

But really, who are the outraged kidding? People are willing to spend a lot more disposable income on themselves than they are on causes like, you know, whales and freeing Tibet. While you might question Groupon's wisdom in running ads that lampoon their own customers, it's not as if what they implied wasn't true.

Still, they hit a nerve with the American public. And I think rising star blogger and Berkeley graduate student Aaron Bady has identified what it is. Here's a series of his tweets from earlier today:

Reading people's complaints about Super Bowl commercials, I'm struck by the feeling that what people are really upset by is the basic fact that the capitalist profit motive is an amoral drive. Yet since that can't register as a scandal -- capitalism, you see, is good! -- we instead use vague, almost meaningless sentences like "in poor taste." The joke of the Groupon commercials, after all, is the foolishness of people who think commerce can be a form of social good. The joke makes no sense unless you accept the disconnect between selfish-desire (purchasing) and social good (charity).
This is actually not unlike

the argument that Robert Reich makes in Supercapitalism, but stripped of all pretensions to any kind of proscriptive morality.

Presented by

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In