Groupon's blog has an explanation of their controversial, Christopher Guest-directed Superbowl spot:
The gist of the concept is this: When groups of people act together to do something, it’s usually to help a cause. With Groupon, people act together to help themselves by getting great deals. So what if we did a parody of a celebrity-narrated, PSA-style commercial that you think is about some noble cause (such as “Save the Whales”), but then it’s revealed to actually be a passionate call to action to help yourself (as in “Save the Money”)?
This might actually be that rare case of a commercial giving the American viewing public too much credit, in expecting that ad to be widely recognized as a joke. (A joke that, as the Onion's AV Club points out, is backed by actual philanthropic efforts that do in fact support Tibet.) Or else it's a sort of cultural meta-troll designed to keep the publicity rumbling after the commercial aired. Or both. (Really, given the tortured cleverness of Groupon's emails, what'd everybody expect?)
Audiences, at least on Twitter, reacted to Groupon's joke the way audiences always react to jokes that offend their sense of political correctness, bringing to mind (with only a hint of schadenfreude) Paul Provenza's observation at Wordstock last fall that marketers are "co-opting humor the same way they co-opted music."
More commercials from Groupon's "Save the Money" campaign right over here.