Suicide is painless for Hyundai

Yesterday, the internet was outraged by a viral advert for Hyundai that used suicide to sell cars. It was unbelievably irresponsible and utterly offensive, and as a result it’s been a huge success. It also demonstrates that people in advertising think we’re all fucking idiots.

The advert was a terrible mistake, Hyundai says, and it was never supposed to be used for promotional purposes. Hyundai’s own ad agency merely brainstormed it, scripted it, hired people to make it, edited it and produced it for absolutely no reason whatsoever, and it’s a mystery how the media desks of The Drum and The Guardian got hold of it (both sites, incidentally, lauded the ad: the Drum made it ad of the day; the Guardian one of its ads of the week. The latter has now been removed from the Guardian website).

The thing is, it’s done exactly what Hyundai wanted: spread the word about its ix35 car.

Here’s Reuters:

He failed to kill himself because the car had “100 percent water emissions,” according to the advert… Hyundai’s crossover ix35 car which is sold as the Tucson in the United States will go on sale in Europe by 2015 as the company seeks to leap-frog its competition in the eco-friendly car segment.

The FT:

A script appears at the bottom promoting “the new ix35 with 100 per cent water emissions,” before fading to the Hyundai logo.

The Telegraph:

The car in question is the hydrogen fuel cell-powered Hyundai ix35: the tagline at the end of the advert reads: “The ix35 with 100 per cent water emissions.”

The Mirror:

the slogan reveals the latest Hyundai vehicle has 100% water emissions.

Metro:

But the ad ends with the man exiting his garage unharmed, with text revealing that the latest Hyundai vehicle has 100% water emissions.

You get the idea.

Yesterday I didn’t know that Hyundai had a fuel cell car in the works, and I didn’t know there was such a thing as an ix35. Now I do, and so do lots of other people. Mission accomplished.

To pull one offensive advert is unfortunate. To pull two suggests a pattern – and Hyundai has form here. In 2011, it used death to promote its Veloster car in a spot that some believe was deliberately “banned” to get more column inches. It’s hard not to look at the suicide ad controversy and imagine a bunch of creatives slapping themselves on the back for a job well done.

I think on balance I’m less offended by this kind of ad than by the crocodile tears cried when viral ads achieve exactly what they were designed to do.