Groupon Taps Celebrities Cuba Gooding Jr., Elizabeth Hurley and Others in Super Bowl Ad Blitz

Groupon has posted its Super Bowl commercials ahead of the big game on its Web site, and it’s using a combination of celebrity power and Americans’ taste for budget-consciousness to sell the relatively new idea of group buying.

The company is not skimping. It’s tapping into its $1 billion-plus war chest to get celebrities on board, such as Cuba Gooding Jr., Elizabeth Hurley, Timothy Hutton and Sheryl Crow.

The concept is a mix of humor and draws on campaigns in the past that were used to raise money for good causes.

(It is also seriously collecting donations on its Web site, presumably just in case the humor is not well received by everyone. UPDATE: Many folks on Twitter aren’t laughing. See below.)

The tagline: “Money is one of our most important natural resources. Sadly, thousands of dollars are wasted every year. Until now.”

Hurley’s commercial starts off with a serious tone, saying that the Brazilian rain forest is one of nature’s most lush ecosystems. But, she says, “Not all deforestation is bad.” Apparently, she saved 50 percent on her Brazilian wax, after 100 people bought one in New York City.

The celebrities are also there to fight the good fight.

Groupon writes: “Watch the informative videos below to learn more about what you can do.”

Timothy Hutton waxes poetic about the Tibetan people.

“Their very culture is in jeopardy, but they still whip up an amazing fish curry, and since 200 of us bought at, we’re each getting $30 worth of Tibetan food for just $15…in Chicago.” Cuba Gooding Jr. saves half on a whale-watching expedition.

It was Timothy Hutton’s remarks about Tibet, which appeared during the third quarter, that received the most mixed results on Twitter.

A Twitter user by the name @robmoffett wrote: “To the folks @groupon: you aren’t funny. Neither are political oppression, religious persecution or state-condoned murder. Just sayin’.” Another comment from @jephjacques said: “Hey @groupon! That Tibet commercial of yours was the most offensive thing I’ve seen all day! #yousuck.”

Others thought the commercial was funny.

Regardless, of how you feel about the commercial, the critics who said the ads failed to have a viral component may have been wrong. They seem to be living far after the game.

In comparison, here’s the ad LivingSocial delivered right after Christina Aguilera sang the National Anthem and right before kick-off.

After the commercials air, the hard work will really begin. I reported earlier this week on the challenges that both companies will face, including offering great deals that will attract new customers, while also making sure they can handle a surge in business.

Here are the clips:

The commercial featuring Sheryl Crow is “coming soon.”

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald