Green Room

Video: Selling cars via … suicide attempts?

posted at 1:34 pm on April 25, 2013 by

Easily the strangest ad strategy I’ve ever seen:

What the hell was Hyundai thinking?  They’ve pulled the ad now, but come on, man:

Car manufacturer Hyundai has pulled one of its adverts in the face of huge criticism about its lighthearted portrayal of a suicide attempt.

The online commercial featured a man attempting to kill himself in his garage by filling it with toxic car fumes but he was ultimately thwarted because the ix35 car emitted only water vapour – one of its main selling points.

Even worse, the ad won kudos from the media:

The advert was available online for a week and had been praised by some media. The Guardian featured it on its weekly ‘best adverts of the week’ roundup, describing it as a “risky viral”.

The ad only got pulled after an advertising copywriter wrote a wrenching letter protesting the spot:

“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. And then I started to cry. I remembered looking out of the window to see the police and ambulance, wondering what was happening.

“I remember mum sitting me down to explain that daddy had gone to sleep and would not be waking up, and no, he wouldn’t be able to take me to my friend’s birthday party next week.

“No, he couldn’t come back from heaven just for that day, but he would like to if he could. I remember finding out that he had died holding my sister’s soft toy rabbit in his lap.

“Surprisingly, when I reached the conclusion of your video, where we see that the man has in fact not died thanks to Hyundai’s clean emissions, I did not stop crying. I did not suddenly feel that my tears were justified by your amusing message. I just felt empty. And sick. And I wanted my dad.”

This wasn’t just an employee wandering off the reservation in a home-made YouTube video.  An advertising agency came up with the idea, pitched it to Hyundai which approved it, and then a bunch of people filmed the ad, and then bought time for it.  At no point, apparently, did anyone think to say, “How in the world do suicide attempts help sell our cars?”

You may want to keep that level of corporate intelligence in mind when trying to determine whether Hyundais will keep you safe on the roads, too. Unbelievable.

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This wasn’t just an employee wandering off the reservation in a home-made YouTube video. An advertising agency came up with the idea, pitched it to Hyundai which approved it, and then a bunch of people filmed the ad, and then bought time for it. At no point, apparently, did anyone think to say, “How in the world do suicide attempts help sell our cars?”

Maybe because it’s funny to the 90+ percent of people who hasn’t had a parent commit suicide? People rail about political correctness, but then are supposed to be offended by this?

cpaulus on April 25, 2013 at 2:12 PM

Wasn’t there a car commercial about some suicide bombers who blew themselves up in a car, but the car was so well built, that the car contained the explosion to the inside of the car? I thought this post would be that commercial.

El_Terrible on April 25, 2013 at 2:17 PM

OK, so it’s suicidal to get into a Hyundai. Got it. I’ll keep that in mind. Good work guys.

rbj on April 25, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Guys, do you know how difficult it is to make an attractive link to one of your posts on Facebook, when there’s no pertinent image included among the choices Facebook finds associated with the page? Will you please revive the practice of including the Hot Air logo among the linked images? Please note that I’m just trying to help here.

Marsili.us on April 25, 2013 at 2:54 PM

Wasn’t there a car commercial about some suicide bombers who blew themselves up in a car, but the car was so well built, that the car contained the explosion to the inside of the car? I thought this post would be that commercial.

Yup, it was called “Arab technology meets German engineering.” It was supposedly just a concept that got leaked, but it was brilliant.

Mohonri on April 25, 2013 at 3:03 PM

One question…American or Japanese ad management?

Probably American… This is the state of that oh so vaunted college education these days… It doesnt matter WHAT you say… It matters that it gets noticed… That’s all they teach in business schools anymore. Get in, get the cash, get out…

Skywise on April 25, 2013 at 3:06 PM

OK, so it’s suicidal to get into a Hyundai. Got it. I’ll keep that in mind. Good work guys.

rbj on April 25, 2013 at 2:31 PM

LOL +1

As to pulling this because of political correctness… not really. It was pulled because it was in really bad taste. It’s a good thing, when a bunch of folks look at something like this and recoil a bit, when they look at the company and ask “WTH were you thinking?”

GWB on April 25, 2013 at 3:29 PM

Let me say one thing sort of in defense of the idea, though. If they had started with the guy, say, jumping out of a first floor window, then jumping off a chair with the rope way too long, then getting in the car, it might have been perceived as more ‘funny’ than purely in bad taste. That sets up that it isn’t serious about suicide, but about a hapless guy who can’t get anything right.

But, it would still be a terrible way to sell your car.

GWB on April 25, 2013 at 3:32 PM

And, I have no idea if any of those things happened in the ad, btw, because it is now pulled for copyright, evidently.

GWB on April 25, 2013 at 3:33 PM

Alzheimer’s disease runs in my family so we’re always making flip comments about committing suicide after the first symptoms appear. My sister once said she would do it using a running car in the garage. I had to inform her that modern cars spew CO2 instead of CO and that she would pass out, then the car would run out of gas, then later she would wake up still suffering from Alzheimer’s.

I guess my point is why do people still think you can commit suicide in this manner?

Odysseus on April 25, 2013 at 4:52 PM

You may want to keep that level of corporate intelligence in mind when trying to determine whether Hyundais will keep you safe on the roads, too. Unbelievable.

Engineers and marketers are in totally different worlds. I wouldn’t judge the engineering of the product based upon the advertising.

For good or for bad.

For any company.

EVER.

RegularJoe on April 25, 2013 at 5:35 PM

I guess my point is why do people still think you can commit suicide in this manner?

Because they can. In an enclosed space like a garage, car exhaust will kill. CO2 in high concentrations (greater than 10%) is lethal within 30 minutes.

keep the change on April 25, 2013 at 8:37 PM

That’s why I keep a time-bomb in the broom closet.
//snark

Slowburn on April 26, 2013 at 1:03 AM