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Groupon Super Bowl ad
Groupon Super Bowl ad

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The perils of trying to be 'edgy' Add to ...

Maybe irony isn't a great marketing tactic, after all. When Kenneth Cole tweeted last week that Egyptian rioters were just excited about his new spring line, the Twitter blowback was so intense it almost mussed his hair. But that was nothing compared with the response to a Groupon.com ad, aired during the Super Bowl, which sent up the plight of Tibetans. Groupon quickly backtracked and tried to explain the joke, but people insisted genocide was nothing to laugh at. Late Wednesday, Groupon added a URL to the ad where people could donate to the refugee assistance organization The Tibet Fund, which should make Groupon's eventual entry into China very interesting.

Tibetan supporters aren't the only ones who are inspired by ads to take to the streets these days: A popular beer brand in Lithuania was forced to pull a billboard campaign after monks and nuns there threatened protest rallies against an ad that depicted carousing monks surrounded by bottles of Adler Bock. "This affects and distorts the image of monks in Lithuania," said the country's association of abbots. The Carlsberg-owned brewer Svyturys-Utenos apologized, pleading guilty with an explanation. The ad had been a nod to the heritage of the beer: Apparently, it's made according to a centuries-old recipe handed down from German monks.

If nothing else, you've got to admire the brewer's loyalty to its heritage. That quality is evidently in decline, according to research that hit the news this week about the brand loyalty of consumers between the ages of 25 and 49. In a study by the Boston-based AMP Agency that looked at five categories - baby products, consumer electronics, food and beverage, health and beauty, and fashion - only 3 per cent of those in Gen X or Gen Y say they're so loyal to a particular brand that they'd never buy another. The culprit? Thanks to the Internet and social media, consumers are far better educated about products. Which would suggest the main reason for brand loyalty is ignorance. (Best not to think about that too much.)

Think about this instead: If it's February, it must be time for MDC Partners to buy another agency. On Wednesday, the Toronto-based holding company announced it was picking up a 60-per-cent stake in Anomaly, the edgy six-year-old house that Fast Company last year named one of its "Innovation All-Stars." Anomaly prides itself on being unconventional, both in its work and its business model: It earns revenue from straight fees as well as a share of intellectual property royalties from other ventures. Its most famous advertising work is probably Diesel's "Be Stupid" campaign, which encouraged fans of the clothing brand to do, um, stupid things. We trust the MDC acquisition wasn't one of those things.

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