Hyundai apologises for suicide ad

Last updated 13:13 26/04/2013
Fairfax Australia

Brand's advertising agency in strife over unauthorised, highly insensitive ad that attempts to make light of suicide. Warning: Video contains disturbing imagery.

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Hyundai has apologised for a viral ad that attempts to make light of suicide.

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The highly insensitive ad shows a man attempting to take his own life by sitting inside a Hyundai ix35 SUV and pumping exhaust gases into the car, only to be foiled by the car's "pure water emissions". The apparent punchline is that the car's emissions wouldn't harm the man no matter how long he sat inside.

The ad was pulled down from YouTube after being criticised worldwide.

Hyundai said the ad was conceived for Hyundai UK by Innocean Europe – a company Automotive News says is owned by Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Mong-koo and his daughter. Hyundai claims it neither asked for, nor approved the ad.

"Hyundai Motor deeply and sincerely apologises for the offensive viral ad," the company 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 apologises to those who have been personally impacted by tragedy."

Advertising agency Innocean Europe also issued a statement expressing regret.

"Innocean Europe deeply regrets any offense or distress that the posting of the viral ad may have caused.

"The intention of the viral ad was to employ hyperbole to dramatise a product advantage, culminating in a positive outcome. Clearly, we were mistaken, and we sincerely apologise.

"As a company that espouses strong family values, Innocean would never intentionally set out to cause distress."

Hyundai Motor America issued its own response following the internet backlash:

"We at Hyundai Motor America are shocked and saddened by the depiction of a suicide attempt in an inappropriate UK video featuring a Hyundai. Suicide merits thoughtful discussion, not this type of treatment."

Car news site AOL Autos quotes a Hyundai UK spokesman, Ian Tonkin, as saying: "Hyundai understands that the video cause (sic) offense... We apologise unreservedly. The video has been taken down and will not be used in any of our advertising or marketing."

The same publication spoke to advertising executive Holly Brockwell, who lost her father to suicide and was shaken by the campaign.

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"You can push boundaries too far and break someone's heart," Brockwell told AOL Autos. The site even published a copy of her father's suicide note to ram home its point.

It's not the first time a car company has made a faux pas in advertising its wares.

Just last month, Ford issued an apology over an ad campaign that depicted celebrities bound, gagged and stuffed into the boot of an Indian-made small sedan.

Toyota found itself in strife over an ad that pushed the boundaries of what was considered socially acceptable to talk to your girlfriend's father about.

-Fairfax Media Australia

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