Daily deals site Groupon owes a chunk of its fast growth to new customers brought in by its unavoidable ads all over the Web and on Facebook--but it doesn't want them appearing on the Web site of "The Apprentice," the reality show hosted by real estate mogul Donald Trump, a political firebrand of late.
In a blog post Thursday, the freewheeling Groupon took a rare serious tone as it explained its decision to ask advertising partner NBC, which airs "The Apprentice," to ensure that its ads not be displayed on the show's site. "Someone online began a petition to boycott Groupon because they believed we were a sponsor of 'The Apprentice,' a show that is in the middle of some political criticism at the moment," the blog post explained.
"Groupon has never been a sponsor of 'The Apprentice' on TV or on the Web," the company continued. "We invest heavily in online advertising through networks that place ads on a rolling basis, meaning that we know one will appear on NBC.com but not specifically which page. We know that some advertising appeared on 'The Apprentice' home page a few weeks ago."
Donald Trump has been all over news headlines recently because of what appear to be the early machinations of a bid for the Republican presidential candidacy (but according to some, it's all an "Apprentice" publicity stunt). His status as a proponent of "birther" theories that suggest President Barack Obama was born outside the U.S. earned him a significant amount of criticism, as did his reaction ("I'm very proud of myself") when Obama released his long-form birth certificate, proving that he was in fact born in Hawaii in 1961. Pundits called out Trump for effectively engaging in xenophobia and race-baiting because Obama is African-American.
"Enough consumers have contacted us to warrant ensuring that we don't place ads on the 'Apprentice' home page in the future," the Groupon blog post explained. "It's the same reason we don't run deals on guns or abortion...this isn't a political statement, it's avoiding intentionally upsetting a segment of our customers."
Groupon is familiar with ad-related bad press; its high-profile Super Bowl spot was the first in a campaign of TV ads that mocked calls for charitable donations, and after many people deemed the ads tasteless and insensitive, the company scrapped the campaign.
Update, 4/29 11:25 a.m. PDT: AdWeek noted that in spite of Groupon asking NBC to stop running ads on the site for "The Apprentice," that there is still a Groupon deal running for a Trump-owned casino in Atlantic City, N.J.