Brands court controversy for Presidents Day

The traditional template for a Presidents Day brand promotion is pretty simple: Put some stuff on sale and maybe run a TV ad with some guys in Lincoln and Washington costumes dancing around.

A lot of brands still do that, but a few are aiming for provocation this year.

First up, there’s Groupon, whose promotion honoring the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, pretty cleanly fits the definition of online trolling. Though he appears on the 10 dollar bill, Hamilton was never president. Yet Groupon’s Presidents Day press release announcing that customers can get $ 10 in credit toward a $ 40 deal discusses “President Alexander Hamilton—undeniably one of our greatest presidents and most widely recognized for establishing the country’s financial system.”

There’s no obvious joke to Groupon’s release, which led quite a few online observers to believe that the company, which tends to take a tongue-in-cheek approach to just about everything, was simply mistaken. Groupon’s responses to people who stepped up to correct it continued the trolling.

A spokeswoman told Fox News, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree.”

Ashley Madison, a dating site that openly courts married users, took a more direct approach with a billboard along Interstate 30 in Little Rock, Ark. The sign depicts former Democratic presidents Bill Clinton, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy with their fingers up to their mouths in a “shush” position. The text reads, “Who said cheaters never prosper? Happy Presidents Day!”

Commenters on the site of Little Rock news channel KTHV weren’t particularly offended by the billboard. They seemingly had more interest in debating whether Presidents Day is a real holiday or not.

The image of the billboard riled at least one Facebook commenter, though. “Man, just when I thought the morality of this country couldn’t get any lower,” wrote Michael Barone.

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One has to wonder whether either of these promotions aimed riling people will have the same impact as, say, Hostgator’s Presidents Day offering of 45 percent off hosting plans.

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