Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, accounting for over 30,000 deaths per year. For every suicide completion, there are an estimated 11 attempts — and that is what a German advertising agency poked fun at in a recent Hyundai ad shown across Europe.
The advertisement shows a man attempting suicide in his garage, using the well-known method of attaching a hose to his car's exhaust pipe and breathing in the fumes. But, surprise surprise, the new Hyundai ix35 is hydrogen-powered and has 100% water emissions! The man emerges from the garage hours later without a word.
An effective ad, but its implications for damage are vast. Hyundai ended up pulling the ad on Thursday after severe backlash from the families of suicide victims and suicide prevention activists alike.
"We know from research that graphic depictions of suicide in the media can inadvertently lead to further suicides, a phenomenon known as contagion," said Robert Gebbia, executive director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "This advertisement was particularly graphic and potentially dangerous. We are pleased that Hyundai has decided to pull this campaign."
Hyundai issued a statement "deeply and sincerely apologizing for the offensive viral ad," claiming that it "runs counter to our values as a company and as members of the community." Both the company and the advertising agency also addressed those personally affected by suicide, stating they meant no harm by the advertisement.
While the ad itself communicated the message well, the evidence showing how the media's treatment of suicide tends to increase self-harm behaviors is too significant to ignore. The decision to pull the ad was definitely for the best.
Watch the advertisement: