HomeAway pulls 'smushed baby' Super Bowl ad; Groupon ad also controversial

Read more at: USAToday

HomeAway is pulling the “smushed baby” TV ads shown on the Super Bowl that have drawn criticism from child advocates and even some of its its own vacation-rental partners. The ads depicted a doll being accidentally hurled against a wall to demonstrate how cramped hotel rooms are vs. spacious rental houses.

“We’ve concluded that despite our best intentions and efforts, the image of the test baby doll is too hurtful for us not to take action,” HomeAway CEO Brian Sharples said in a press release. “We have decided to remove the versions of the ad that depict the doll getting smushed, smashed, or dropped from our website. We’ll cut a new version of the ad showing the test baby doll being safely caught and unharmed, and still allow people to have fun customizing the ad (on HomeAway’s website) with their faces or vacation rental properties. We have also changed our planned online campaign and will remove all creative showing the doll, and will replace those online ads with other creative executions. And, of course, we will not be airing the ‘test baby’ ad again on television.”

Meanwhile, the social network-powered discount buying service Groupon has been slammed for its irreverent take on the political struggle in Tibet. The 30-second spot, directed by Christopher Guest of Best in Show and This is Spinal Tap, starts with visuals of snow-capped mountains, smiling girls in ethnic dress and Lhasa’s Potala Palace as actor Timothy Hutton intones, “the people of Tibet are in trouble.” But it ends with Hutton sitting in a Himalayan restaurant in Chicago, enjoying an “amazing fish curry” thanks to a 50% discount through Groupon.

“The juxtaposition of this somber aspect of the Tibetan issue with Tibetan ability to make ‘amazing fish curry’ in a way trivializes the experience of the Tibetan people. It is for this reason that I see quite some Tibetans and friends of Tibet being upset with this commercial,” writes Bhuchung K. Tsering on the International Campaign for Tibet’s blog. (For the record, adds Tsering, “Tibetans are not known for fish curries and the Himalayan Restaurant in Chicago is actually run by Nepalese and Indians, and thus not Tibetan.”)