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article imageHyundai car ad depicts suicide, gets pulled after outcry

By Yukio Strachan     Apr 26, 2013 in Technology
South Korean car maker Hyundai apologized to viewers Thursday for its commercial featuring a man attempting to kill himself with the exhaust fumes from his new car.
The one-minute commercial — by Hyundai's in-house ad agency Innocean Worldwide — intended to promote its new hydrogen-powered zero-emissions vehicle, the IX35 crossover. It features a man sitting in the driver's seat of his car in the garage with the engine running. The camera shows a hose running from the exhaust pipe to the house. The windows are taped up.
Fumes start to fill the interior of the car, but the man is still alive. Frustrated, he gives up and goes inside his house. It ends with the tagline: "The new IX35, with 100%-water emissions." In other words, since the car runs on hydrogen, it emits only water vapor, not carbon monoxide.
"The ad is meant to be humorous: the victim finds out he is in a zero-emission car," USA Today writes.
Some ad pros had favorable reviews. The Drum, a media and marketing magazine, for example, featured the video on April 19, 2013 as its "Ad of the Day".
"This viral is bound to put the cat among the pigeons but even its harshest critics won't be able to deny that it manages to communicate its message," the site said.
The critics had a different opinion. "We know from research that graphic depictions of suicide in the media can inadvertently lead to further suicides, a phenomenon known as contagion," said Robert Gebbia, executive director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, according to USA Today. "This advertisement was particularly graphic and potentially dangerous."
The Independent, an English newspaper, reported that the ad started running last week, USA Today stated. By Thursday evening, Hyundai had the official ad pulled from its channel, the writes.
Hyundai says sorry
Hyundai Europe issued an apology:
"We understand that some people may have found the iX35 video offensive. We are very sorry if we have offended anyone," Hyundai Europe told Forbes in a statement. "We have taken the video down and have no intention of using it in any of our advertising or marketing."
Hyundai Europe later issued another apology.
"Hyundai Motor deeply and sincerely apologizes for the offensive viral ad," Hyundai said in a statement. "The ad was created by an affiliate advertising agency, Innocean Europe, without Hyundai's request or approval. It runs counter to our values as a company and as members of the community. We are very sorry for any offense or distress the video caused. More to the point, Hyundai apologizes to those who have been personally impacted by tragedy."
But as Adage points out, Innocean is owned by Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo and his daughter. Hyundai used the same "affiliate advertising agency," when it pulled a World Cup-themed TV ad in 2010 after an outcry from the Catholic Church.
The third apology came from Hyundai Motor America:
"We at Hyundai Motor America are shocked and saddened by the depiction of a suicide attempt in an inappropriate U.K. video featuring a Hyundai," said Chris Hosford, vice president, Corporate Communications, Hyundai Motor America in a message posted on Hyundai's website. "Suicide merits thoughtful discussion, not this type of treatment."
No laughing matter, for many
But the damage was already done, critics said. Every 40 seconds a person commits suicide somewhere in the world, according to the World Health Organization. This means the spot may have caused some viewers to relive painful memories connected to loved ones who committed suicide in their own lives. In those moments, it could make some viewers feel as though the past situation is happening in the present time.
Holly Brockwell, an advertising copy writer and blogger in London, said that her own father had killed himself in the manner portrayed in the video, CNN Money reported.
"When your ad started to play, and I saw the beautifully-shot scenes of taped-up car windows with exhaust feeding in, I began to shake. I shook so hard that I had to put down my drink before I spilt it," she wrote in an open letter to Hyundai.
After posting a photo of her father's suicide note, she ended the letter on a powerful note: "My dad never drove a Hyundai. Thanks to you, neither will I."
What do you think of the ad? Let us know in the comment section below!
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