February 9th, 2011
11:06 AM GMT
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February 9th, 2011
06:53 AM GMT
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A U.S. online coupon company has managed, in the words of one blogger, a “2-for-1 Super Bowl Special: Offend Both China and Tibetans Activists.”

Groupon, the group buying website that has become the newest darling of the dotcom world – rebuffing a recent bid by Google to buy it for $5 billion – aired three ads during Sunday’s Super Bowl game that attempted a playful juxtaposition of serious issues with getting discounts: Hence the ad campaign’s tongue-in-cheek title, “Save the Money.”

As CNN.com’s Doug Gross explains, in an ad that opens on a Himalayan landscape, actor Timothy Hutton bemoans the human-rights situation in Tibet before quipping from the Himalayan Restaurant in Chicago, "But they still whip up an amazing fish curry!" and extols how he and 200 others got a $30 meal for half price.

In the two other ads, actor Cuba Gooding Jr. bemoans the world's dwindling number of whales before talking up a discounted whale-watching cruise and actress Elizabeth Hurley bemoans imperiled Amazon rainforests before promoting a deal on a Brazilian wax beauty treatment (adding that "not all deforestation is bad").

The ads were directed by Christopher Guest, the actor from pseudo-documentary classic “This is Spinal Tap” and director of similar satirical documentaries like “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind,” which poked fun at competitive dog shows and 1960s folk music culture, respectively.

But the parody has fallen flat on both sides of the Pacific, with Tibetan activists outraged, claiming the ad was insensitive. Bloggers in China – where Groupon is in the midst of a big push into the world’s largest internet market – remarked on the timing of the ad.

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