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Hyundai Suicide ‘Advert’ causes a rumpus

Fri, 26 Apr 2013 00:00:00 -0700

It’s not easy advertising your wares and finding the right balance between mainstream and innovative to capture attention, as Hyundai has found out to their cost with an ‘advert’ for the hydrogen powered ix35 FCEV which, rather distastefully, depicts a man trying to commit suicide by running a hose from the tailpipe to the cabin before realising he can’t achieve his aim as the FCEV’s only emissions are water.

It’s a proper cock-up from Hyundai – usually so sure-footed with their PR – but, despite Hyundai US putting the blame at the door of Hyundai UK, there’s more to this suicide ‘advert’ than meets the eye.

It seems the suicide video was put together by Innocean – a European Ad Agency owned by Hyundai’s Chairman Chung Mong-koo and his daughter, and responsible for much of Hyundai’s marketing output – and was a clumsy attempt to gauge reaction to the somewhat macabre take on the benefits of an FCEV.

The plan was to put the suicide advert on YouTube for a day to get feedback, and they certainly got that with widespread condemnation from everyone, including Hyundai’s US boss, John Krafcik, who said:

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.

Suicide merits thoughtful discussion, not this type of treatment.

And he’s right – but he’s also not.

We’ve spoken at length to Hyundai UK this morning and they’ve made it clear they did not commission this advert, and are as upset as anyone that it’s caused offence. The advert was, as we’ve said, put together by Innocean without any involvement from Hyundai UK and the blame must rest with Innocean, although apportioning blame doesn’t mitigate the cock up.

Hyuindai  said:

Hyundai Motor deeply and sincerely apologizes for the offensive viral film. The film 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.

To add to that, Innocean has also released a statement on the suicide advert. They said:

INNOCEAN Worldwide deeply and sincerely apologizes for any offense or distress that the posting of the viral film may have caused.

This viral film was created and posted on Youtube for one day by INNOCEAN Worldwide Europe to get consumers’ feedback on creative idea employing hyperbole to dramatize a product advantage without any other commercial purpose.

Nevertheless, as a company that espouses strong family values, INNOCEAN would never intentionally set out to cause distress. More to the point, INNOCEAN apologizes to those who have been personally impacted by tragedy.

Both Hyundai and Innocaean are saying all the right things, but they probably need to do a bit more to pay penance.

Perhaps a program, funded by Hyundai, to help those who are struggling to find a reason to stay alive would help? Hyundai are already involved in a number of social programmes, and this would seem a sensible route to go.

But at least there are plenty of ‘Mea Culpas’ going around, even if it is a giant cock up. But, and we probably shouldn’t say this, we actually found it effective – and amusing.


By Cars UK