Hyundai’s Crisis Management for Suicide Video

Always consider the feelings of your audience

When it comes to attempts at “edgy” marketing, it’s easy to go too far, creating a self-made crisis. Late last month, Hyundai raced into crisis management mode after an online video featuring its hydrogen fuel cell-powered Hyundai x35 literally brought many viewers to tears, and it wasn’t from laughing too hard.

What happened? Here’s a description, from a UK Telegraph article by Leo Wilkinson:

The film – called Pipe Job – was produced by Innocean Worldwide Europe, a marketing communications company, and was posted on Youtube last week. It shows a man sitting in a car with the windows taped up and a hose from the exhaust pipe into the cabin.

He is seen taking deep breaths as vapour enters the car. Night falls and the man is seen leaving the car, his suicide attempt unsuccessful.

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.”

This (quite understandably) struck a nerve with many whose friends or loved ones have claimed their own lives, and they flocked to social media to let their feelings be known.

The video was quickly pulled, and Hyundai released the following statement:

“Hyundai Motor UK had no involvement with this film and Hyundai Motor Company did not request the film to be made, nor was it asked to approve it.”

“Hyundai Motor deeply and sincerely apologizes for the offensive viral film. 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.”

As the creating agency, Innocean’s reputation was at just as much risk, and a statement quickly came from that side as well:

“Innocean Worldwide deeply and sincerely apologizes for any offense or distress that the posting of the viral film may have caused.

“This viral film was created and posted on Youtube for one day by Innocean Worldwide Europe to get consumers’ feedback on creative idea employing hyperbole to dramatize a product advantage without any other commercial purpose.”

“Nevertheless, as a company that espouses strong family values, Innocean would never intentionally set out to cause distress. More to the point, Innocean apologizes to those who have been personally impacted by tragedy.”

Both apologies were strong, although we would give the edge to Hyundai’s as a result of its compassion for those impacted coming through a bit more clearly.

In the midst of the push to create viral content, don’t forget your due diligence. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and think, “how could this piss someone off?” If the answers come pouring in, it’s probably time to switch directions.

The BCM Blogging Team

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