Hyundai's Ad Mocking Suicide: Not Funny

Hyundai is apologizing for an ad that pokes fun at a failed suicide attempt. Proud of its new ix35 model that uses water rather than carbon monoxide emissions, the company played on a way that some people end their lives. But the ad didn't go over well, particularly for one woman, who lost her dad to this method of suicide.

Holly Brockwell wrote a touching blog post about her father's suicide and how the ad affected her. As a creative advertising director, Brockwell has good credibility for her reaction: Suicide note

"I understand better than most people the need to do something newsworthy, something talkable, even something outrageous to get those all-important viewing figures. What I don't understand is why a group of strangers have just brought me to tears in order to sell me a car. Why I had to be reminded of the awful moment I knew I'd never see my dad again, and the moments since that he hasn't been there. That birthday party. Results day. Graduation."

Brockwell also posted her father's suicide note, which has gone viral.

A week before Brockwell's blog post, AdWeek had criticized the ad. Apparently, a reporter contacted Hyundai but received no response. That was a warning the company should have heeded.

Now, after more bad press, Hyundai has pulled the ad from YouTube and issued these statements:

Hyundai Motor America Statement:

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

Hyundai Motor Company Statement:

"Hyundai Motor deeply and sincerely apologizes for the offensive viral ad.

"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."

Discussion Starters:

  • Hyundai's defense is similar to McDonald's, which was criticized for the subway ad mocking mental illness: the ads were created "without Hyundai's request or approval." Do you buy it?
  • We haven't seen a response from Innocean, the ad agency. What, if anything, should they do?