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25 April 2013updated 22 Oct 2020 3:55pm

Who the hell would buy a car after Hyundai’s suicide joke advert?

The car firm is under fire for an extraordinarily insensitive advert.

By Alex Hern

Hyundai is under fire for an astonishingly insensitive “viral” advert which depicts a man trying to commit suicide and being thwarted by his zero-emission car.

Content warning: contains depictions of attempted suicide:

Holly Brockwell, whose father killed himself in the same way, has written a powerful open letter to Hyundai and its ad agency Innocean:

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.

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Brockwell’s letter has sparked a wave of protest against the advert, but astonishingly, before she wrote it, the advert had been praised by other writers. The Guardian‘s Jason Stone picked it as one of the “best adverts of the week“, writing:

In order to demonstrate the benign nature of the advertised vehicle’s emissions, we find out what happens when a desperate man feeds his exhaust pipe into the car in a bid to end his life. Mind you, as he trudges back to his house to continue his meaningless existence, it doesn’t seem likely that the car has saved his life for very long – unless, of course, his suicide attempt was prompted by despair about global warming.

While The Drum picked it as ad of the day last week, writing:

This viral is bound to put the cat among the pigeons but even its harshest critics won’t be able to deny that it manages to communicate its message.

It certainly does communicate a message. Probably not the one that Hyundai wanted communicating, though.

The Times’ Kat Brown confirms it’s a Hyundai advert, but adds:

 

 

 

 

It’s worth noting that the Drum selected it as advert of the day on 19 April and the Guardian chose it as one of the best ads of the week today. As Ben Goldacre writes, it’s not the “reaction” which is the problem here. The advert is “almost surreally misguided”:

There is clear evidence that this kind of content increases the use of specific suicide methods… No responsible broadcaster should give this advert airtime, and I hope nobody at Hyundai will be childish enough to regard the attention given to them in this blog post as some kind of victory for their irresponsible, exploitative, attention-seeking and dangerous behaviour.

If any of the content of this story affects you, the Samaritans are available to talk 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Update

The Guardian has edited its comment about the advert to remove the claim that it’s one of the “best” adverts, and to take out the joke about him trudging back to his “meaningless existence”. It now reads:

In order to demonstrate the benign nature of the advertised vehicle’s emissions, we find out what happens when a desperate man feeds his exhaust pipe into the car in a bid to end his life.