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Making Genocide a Joke?

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Ad agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, took irreverence to a whole new low yesterday, making light of the suffering of the people of Tibet.

Years ago, I saw Alex Bugusky and other members of this agency's creative team in a "battle of the ad bands" at New York City's CBGB. The Miami hipsters had named their mock band Iconic Trucker Hat -- I didn't understand them then and I certainly don't now.

CPB has earned a reputation for witty and catchy -- but perhaps it's time they looked out of their posh windows and realized their parodies are at the expense of a nation ravaged by genocide and torture -- to a nation of people led by an exiled Nobel Peace Prize Winner.

Tibetans have suffered well-documented abuses since China's illegal occupation over 50 years ago. Forced labor camps, disappearances, forced sterilization of women, torture -- these are nothing to laugh at.

Timothy Hutton leads the ad with, "Mountainous Tibet, one of the most beautiful places in the world. This is Timothy Hutton, the people of Tibet are in trouble, their very culture is in jeopardy -- but they still whip up an amazing fish curry, and since 200 of us just bought at Groupon.com, we're getting $30 of Tibetan food for just $15 at Himalayan Restaurant in Chicago."

Perhaps Mr. Hutton and CPB should do a bit of fact checking, Robert Barnett, a professor of Tibetan Studies at the prestigious Columbia University stated, "It seems cultural knowledge is not their strength, since fish is rarely if ever eaten in Tibet, curry comes from India. Fish curry does not exist in Tibetan cuisine."

Sadly, as I called the restaurant to ask about their participation in this debacle (and if they indeed served fish curry), I was told they had not seen the advertisement, it was coordinated by Groupon.

As I watched the ad, my mind turned to another totalitarian regime; would CPB have made an ad for matzah ball soup, dismissing the holocaust as an inconvenience, but a benefit for American's gastronomic discounts? Perhaps a great Egyptian restaurant, one where you don't hear rioting in the streets while you eat food at discount prices?

Interestingly, in the world of nonprofits, there has been much talk lately about utilizing the Groupon model to benefit charities. From this advertisement, it is apparent that Groupon has no interest in helping anyone and will use their venture capital to push buttons to raise their own "chatter" at the expense of others.

I find it interesting that CPB represents so many brands that are staple names in American households: Microsoft, Burger King, Old Navy, Coca Cola and Domino's Pizza. Are these brands comfortable receiving advice from this agency?

Apparently, after you succumb to signing up for Groupon, they have an offer on their site to donate $15 to a Tibet-related NGO. Interestingly, even though the ad on YouTube is well above 37,000 views, as of the time of writing this, only 64 people had bought into this. At $15 per person, that is $960 to the charity, doubled, that is $1,920. Seems the idea that donations would come in through this just hasn't reached the traction that could remotely rationalize this.

Sorry Groupon, but my conscious can't be bought by a discount, nor an "aren't we cheeky" ad campaign during the Superbowl. Perhaps you should reassess the buying public in a country that actually cares about the Declaration of Human Rights. And CPB, maybe you should spend some time working with political prisoners -- try applying practical knowledge to your campaigns.