In the end, it will be the right thing strategically for GM, if not creatively. General Motors today is editing the Super Bowl spot it aired last Sunday to change a sequence showing a despondent robot fired from the assembly line committing suicide by jumping off a bridge.
The suicide jump was a dream sequence, but suicide prevention groups this week have been peppering GM with complaints, e-mails and letters expressing their objection to the ad.
"The purpose of the ad was always to display our obsession with quality that allows us to offer the best warranty in the industry. So, to me making an edit to get back on that message was a no brainer," GM sales and marketing chief Mark LaNeve told me today.
As I have written, the story in the ad, which scored #1 among Super Bowl ads on ESPN.com's poll, was meant to convey GM's obsession with quality. The robot drops a screw on the line. The other workers glare at him, and he's escorted from the factory. He has a series of humiliating jobs, like working a fast-food drive-up lane. He walks around, forlorn, lost, and missing the GM cars he sees driving by. He gets to a bridge, and hurls himself off. But as he hits the water, he wakes up in the factory. It was all a nightmare.
GM isn't putting a statemet out on this. But a GM official confirmed the ad is being re-edited a day after one GM spokesman said the ad would not be pulled and that it would run on the Grammy Awards telcast.
The ad is apparently being edited so that the robot doesn't actually jump off the bridge. He stops short of it, and then wakes up in the factory.
As I blogged yesterday, I don't think the suicide prevention groups are correct in their objections. But GM provided an easy target to generate awareness for their cause, and a victory lap to take in front of their constituents.
The agency that produced the ad, Deutsch/LA, did a very good job on the ad. But from GM's standpoint, the story around the ad was going to be about suicide and not quality. The suicide prevention groups were on the verge of banding together into one chorus of 200 some organizations yelling at GM. These are good people, and GM would have looked bad if they stood them off.
Ironically, Mars caved in immdiately to gay enti-defamation groups who objected to their Super Bowl Snickers ad in which two mechanics were overcome by their love of Snickers and ate a bar, each one munching from the opposite end, until they met in the middle in an uncomfortable lip lock. Objections from those groups would have been much easier to stand off for Mars. But the candy company had no stomach for that fight.