Hyundai Apologizes for Ad Depicting Suicide Attempt

For the second time this month, a company is apologizing for making light of suicide in their advertizing. While these unapproved McDonald’s posters were distasteful and insensitive, Hynudai’s “Pipe Job” spot, which actually depicts a failed suicide attempt, takes the decidedly un-funny joke to an entirely different level.

The ad shows a man attempting to end his life with carbon monoxide poisoning by breathing the exhaust of a new Hyundai. The joke’s on him, though; the car’s emissions are so clean, he lives to see another day.

Yeah. We’re not laughing, either.

In fact, because some of us have immediate family members who have suffered with depression and have attempted suicide, we just can’t muster our usual “lighten up” attitude for this one — it’s just plain offensive (and potentially harmful). There is ample data showing that careless depictions of suicide can actually cause more suicides to occur. And this ad not only depicts a pretty detailed blue-print for how to kill yourself, but it also neglects to show any evidence of the impact that this man’s actions would have on others, or suggest that there is any kind of help available to him.

A spokesman for Hyundai told Forbes via email that the video was created in Europe by a European agency (Innocean Europe), and said that Hyundai Motor North America was not involved in any way in its production or posting. He also passed on the following statement from Hyundai Europe:

“We understand that some people may have found the iX35 video offensive.  We are very sorry if we have offended anyone.  We have taken the video down and have no intention of using it in any of our advertising or marketing.”

Hyundai North America has since publicly issued the following statement:

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.

While we do feel that this apology and the decision to pull the ad were appropriate damage-control responses, we are a little surprised the ad made it that far in the first place without someone somewhere along the line saying, “gee, guys, it’s clever and all, but this goes quite a bit too far”. Mental illness is still a fairly taboo subject in many respects, and those suffering from it often feel too ashamed to talk openly about what they are going through or to seek help. We don’t see ads making light of other life-threatening disabilities, so why is depression any different?

On principle, we weren’t honestly sure we even wanted to include the video in this post, but realized readers would likely want to see what we’re talking about. The ad is below the jump, but we personally found it disturbing enough to suggest you use discretion before viewing.

Publish date: April 26, 2013 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT