Super Bowl Ads Spark Controversy for HomeAway and Groupon

Super Bowl commercials are designed to create high-profile awareness for their sponsors – but two travel-themed ads that aired during Sunday’s N.F.L. showdown are generating as much blowback as buzz. During the ad, a baby (played by a doll) is accidentally slammed against a glass wall in a cramped, simulated hotel room in a lab setting. Though the infant was clearly not real and labeled “test baby,” the ad has been slammed by those who think showing child abuse — even simulated — for entertainment is irresponsible.

The story quoted a HomeAway press release that said: “We used the test baby scene to create a ‘Super Bowl-worthy’ moment that breaks through the clutter of so many ads. While everyone loves babies and wouldn’t want to see a real infant get mistakenly flung into the air, we hope viewers will get a good laugh from our test baby’s unfortunate flight. The comic situation is used to highlight the fact that families, particularly those with children, could use a little extra space when traveling.”

“The last thing we wanted was to offend our customers – it’s bad business and it’s not where our hearts are,” added Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason on the company’s corporate blog. “When we think about commercials that offend us, we think of those that glorify antisocial behavior – like the scores of Super Bowl ads that are built around the crass objectification of women. Unlike those ads, no one walks away from our commercials taking the causes we highlighted less seriously. In fact, the feedback led us to make changes to the end of our ads that further encourage our fundraising. To that point, if the ads affected you, we hope you’ll head over to SaveTheMoney.org and make a donation (which we’ll match).”