Hyundai’s “Suicidal” Marketing Crisis

In April of 2013, Hyundai released a commercial known as “Pipe Job” that left many people in the UK confused and shocked. The commercial’s primary goal was to illustrate the car’s new water engine emissions in a humorous way. However, due to this very commercial, Hyundai soon found itself in a potentially “suicidal” PR and marketing crisis.

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The ad was written about a topic that should clearly never be joked about and is very personal for many people across the world. The ad shows a man who is attempting suicide through inhaling harmful emissions, but fails due to the company’s new water engine emissions. Obviously, Hyundai released this ad in hopes that their audience would find humor in the failure of his attempt at suicide because of their water engine emissions. The company soon found that the ad produced the opposite effect. One of the main people who caused the uproar regarding this commercial was blogger Holly Brockwell. Holly wrote an emotional post regarding this poor taste in marketing.

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Unfortunately for Hyundai, this entire crisis could have been somewhat avoided. While of course it could have been completely avoided by simply never allowing the commercial to air, it could have also been avoided if the company had a crisis management plan implemented. Instead, Hyundai was slow in their apologies and even ignored reporters when they reached out for answers. This lack of communication for those with questions is what ultimately left Hyundai in a PR crisis that was nearly impossible to overcome. While Hyundai finally released apologies and statements, the damage that has been done is immeasurable. In the end, companies must be proactive when dealing with crises that involve their products to have a chance at managing them before they have a chance to become something larger.

-Ryan Nagy

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7 thoughts on “Hyundai’s “Suicidal” Marketing Crisis

  1. Many companies now will do anything they can to get the attention of consumers. After reading this article, I immediately went to read Holly Brockwell’s response to the commercial. I immediately felt extremely sorry for him. While watching this commercial he was forced to relive the death of his father. Hyundai was being completely insensitive towards the many people who commit suicide and to the families and friends of those who’s loved one who have committed suicide. Although they might have thought this would be a good campaign for their brand, this topic is one that effects the lives of many people. I feel so sorry for those who had to relieve a family members death. I agree this was a bad move on Hyundai.

  2. This is a crisis I was actually unaware of. My parents both have Hyundai’s and I don’t even think they were aware. This is just an example that shows that anyone no matter how big the company, can mess up an advertising campaign. What separates the successful companies from the others is that they take much more time and thought for what they put on the air. Hyundai clearly didn’t take high consideration into this ad when they released it, and like Ryan Nady said, this was detrimental to Hyundai’s market and customers. PR practitioners and Advertisers need to see these problems before they happen.

  3. I found this post really interesting. This commercial should have been avoided as a whole, but as you said, having a crisis management system in place could have reduced the backlash the company received. I understand the use of humor in advertising but I feel that a company as successful as Hyundai should know better than to use suicide, a touchy subject, as a source of humor. This is sad because the new system that they have enacted is better for the environment and thus better for the driver. I hope that this doesn’t create a backlash against supporting this company that’s cars are moving towards a healthier future.

  4. It always surprises me how controversial ideas can go past so many people in a company and not one person explains how it could be a horrible idea. I do not think suicide is ever a joking matter and I find that Hyundai has a sick sense of humor. With such an iffy subject, they could have at least had PR people ready to fix any possible problems with the campaign.

  5. I definitely see how people were offended by Hyundai’s ad. Suicide is one of those things that should never be joked about and it is obvious that many people will take this very seriously. I understand Holly’s reaction completely. The fact that Hyundai took a while to respond to the negative feedback is not a good way to help their brand. They were in crisis and they needed to apologize quickly, just like the American Red Cross did in the blog entry above. This isn’t the first time that Hyundai has left me wondering what they were thinking in their advertising. I watch The Walking Dead and they always drive around in the same green 2013 Hyundai. I get that they are encouraging people who watch the show to drive a Hyundai but first off, the target audience is not going to drive around in a “mom car.” Secondly, according to the show, the zombie apocalypse began in 2010 and the car is a 2013? Someone explain that to me! Seeing this car in the show makes me more inclined to never want a Hyundai because of their stupidity.

  6. I was also unaware of this commercial. Sometimes I believe that people take advertisements, marketing strategies and tweets too literally and need to lighten up when it comes to companies selling their product, but this is not the case in this certain situation. This commercial was completely inappropriate. There are unlimited humorous topics to joke about that could grasp an audiences attention, but suicide being the topic of choose is just unethical. Apparently the target Hyundai audience agreed due to the immense negative feedback. Hearing that the company was slow to apologize makes me wonder if they initially were truly sorry and chalked this ad up as a mistake. Despite this companies negligence, I think everyone knows that they won’t be airing anymore commercials centered around major issues our world struggles with today.

  7. It just amazes me that someone can be that culturally unaware and still make it to a position in advertising for a huge company like Hyundai. I can only imagine a group of these oblivious people sitting around a table and agreeing that someone’s failed suicide attempt was the best way to demonstrate their new emissions. This makes me wonder about what kind of training they go through at Hyundai. There should really be programs for these advertising departments that teach them about other companies’ mistakes and prepare them for noticing when something is taboo, and prepare them for when they make a mistake themselves. Maybe they just need a list of things not to use in their ads, like – suicide, racism and other discrimination, abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction… etc. maybe good things to avoid using to sell cars. I’m just amazed at how stupid this was. It’s not like one person created this ad. An entire team worked on this along with an actor and producers and not a single one of them thought that was wrong.

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