As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, which may explain the thinking behind Hyundai’s hopelessly crass “viral suicide ad,” in which a man tries — then fails — to kill himself with exhaust fumes while sitting in one of Hyundai’s new vehicles. Hyundai has since pulled the ad and issued a statement, saying it “deeply and sincerely apologizes for the offensive viral film.”
In the minute-long ad, a pensive-looking middle-aged man starts a car in his garage, sits back in the car seat, takes several deep breaths, then closes his eyes as fumes fill the area. Cut to nighttime, and suddenly the garage lights come on, the garage door comes up and the man walks out, apparently fine as Hyundai’s tagline pops up boasting about its new vehicle’s “100% water emissions.”
Needless to say, viewers aren’t amused. Noticed by the BBC, London-based blogger Holly Brockwell wrote a powerful letter to Hyundai and Innocean (the advertising agency responsible for the spot) describing her own father’s suicide (in a car) and admonishing the companies for using this sort of morbid spectacle to hype technology.
As an advertising creative, I would like to congratulate you on achieving the visceral reaction we all hope for. On prompting me to share it on my Twitter page and my blog. I would not like to congratulate you on making me cry for my dad … 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.
In its apology, Hyundai claims the video was created by Innocean Europe “without Hyundai’s request or approval,” and notes that it “runs counter to our values as a company and as members of the community,” further apologizing “to those who have been personally impacted by tragedy.”