Hyundai Motor Co. (005380), South Korea’s largest automaker, and its advertising affiliate Innocean Worldwide Inc. apologized for posting a promotional video depicting a man trying to kill himself in his vehicle.
The spot, created by Innocean Worldwide Europe and posted on Google Inc.’s YouTube, shows a driver of a Hyundai ix35 fuel cell SUV trying and failing to kill himself by running the engine in a closed garage because the vehicle doesn’t emit fumes. The video, which has been pulled from YouTube after triggering online criticism, wasn’t created for commercial purposes, according to an e-mail from Innocean.
“Hyundai Motor deeply and sincerely apologizes for the offensive viral film,” the Seoul-based company said in an e- mailed response. “The film 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.”
Hyundai, which reported a 15 percent drop in first-quarter profit yesterday, said it didn’t request the film to be made, nor was it asked to approve the video. The lapse comes one month after the South Korean automaker apologized for a posting on Chinese social media touting the child-safety features of its Santa Fe SUV while alluding to an outcry over the murder of a two-month baby.
Hyundai said then that the posting was unauthorized and the company will be more vigilant in monitoring its social media accounts. An independently owned Chinese car dealer at the time also apologized after a posting that alluded to the murder and touted the safety features of Buick vehicles.
“Automakers need to be more vigilant, but they have become less conservative and more risk-taking when it comes to advertising even though aggressive use of social network can sometimes backfire,” said Gregory Kim, a U.K.-based director at Mirae Asset Securities Co., by phone today. “Even if it backfires, it usually won’t have a lasting effect, and most of the time it plays a positive factor for the company in the long run by building brand awareness.”
Ford Motor Co. became embroiled in controversy last month after WPP Plc (WPP)’s JWT India unit published unauthorized advertisements, including a version depicting former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi with three tied-up and gagged young women in the back of a Ford Figo vehicle. The advertising agency subsequently fired an undisclosed number of employees for their involvement in the “distasteful” ads, which were never requested by Ford and weren’t intended for paid publication, JWT said last month.
Innocean is 40 percent owned by Hyundai Chairman Chung Mong Koo’s eldest daughter Sung Yi, according to a regulatory filing on April 4.
“We at Hyundai Motor America are shocked and saddened by the depiction of a suicide attempt in an inappropriate European video featuring a Hyundai,” John Krafcik, chief executive officer of Hyundai in U.S. said in a message posted on Twitter. “Suicide merits thoughtful discussion, not this type of treatment.”
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