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The Ad That Got Everyone Talking - and Not in a Good Way

  |  May 1, 2013   |  Comments

Last week, Hyundai apologized for an ad that featured a man attempting to commit suicide in his garage with exhaust fumes from one of its SUVs. A week later and despite Hyundai's efforts to cover its tracks, the video ads are still going strong.

Last week, Hyundai apologized for an ad that featured a man attempting to commit suicide in his garage with exhaust fumes from one of its SUVs. A week later and despite Hyundai's efforts to cover its tracks, the video ads are still going strong. 

The supposed idea behind the ad was that the SUV, an iX35, runs on hydrogen rather than gas or diesel, and emits only water vapor so the man was unable to kill himself.

The ad provoked protest from Holly Brockwell, a freelance copywriter in the UK, who used her blog to ask Hyundai to remove the ad. Her blog describes how her father (pictured below) committed suicide in a similar way that was portrayed in the ad:


"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," she wrote.

Brockwell’s blog soon became more viral than the ad itself and sparked uproar all over Twitter.



Hyundai apologized the same day stating that the ad was created by the automotive brand’s European advertising agency Innocean Europe.

"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."

Reports suggest that Brockwell first saw the ad when a colleague posted it on Twitter. However according to a spokesperson from Hyundai Motor America, it is not clear how or where the ad originally appeared. "To the best of our knowledge it was never on any Hyundai website or Hyundai YouTube outlet”.

Since the debacle, the ad cited in Brockwell's blog has been taken down and has instead been replaced with a message that reads “This video is no longer available due to a trademark claim by a third party.”

Concurrently, Hyundai released another comment: "Hyundai understands that the video has caused offence. We apologize unreservedly. The video has been taken down and will not be used in any of our advertising or marketing.”

It seems the automotive brand is using all of its efforts to bring multiple copyright challenges to YouTube and anyone who tries to show the video. Sadly for them, it seems that their battle (and legal expenses) might be tested for a while longer as the ad can still be found in numerous places. Just type 'Hyundai suicide ad' into YouTube and you'll see. 

Both Hyundai Europe and Innocean Europe declined to comment.

Watch ad below (before it gets taken down!). 


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Melanie White

Melanie White is the Editor of ClickZ, where she has worked since July 2012. White has been with Incisive Media (ClickZ's parent company) since 2009 where she was Deputy Editor/ US Editor for one of the financial risk management titles, International Custody and Fund Administration (later Custody Risk).

In addition, White worked on FX Week where she was a Senior Reporter. She has also worked and contributed to a number of other titles, including The Accountant, International Accounting Bulletin, the New York Post, Independent Magazine (UK), as well as the broadcast title Sunday Live with Adam Boulton at Sky News.

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