Did Hyundai Cross the Proverbial Line?

April 25, 2013

I just sat down after cleaning a bit around the house, opened my laptop and began combing through my feeds, networks and saved content, and ran back across a few comments here and there that popped up in my Twitter feed today regarding the Hyundai “Pipe Job” ad. I saved one article about the ad to read later and clicked the link to watch the commercial. It appears that Hyundai has been taking the ad down left and right with DMCA takedowns, but I managed to find a working link here.

Before reading any further, watch the ad.

There has always been a conflict within each member of the advertising community as to where to draw “the line.” Our individual moral imperatives prevent us as individuals from behaving a certain way, but does that apply to our careers as advertisers? Is it ethical for me to believe that smoking kills and still find the best way to drive the masses to continue smoking if my job requires it? What constitutes pushing the envelope? How far is too far? What exactly is this line, where is it, and what does it mean to approach and cross it?

When considering campaign ideas, it is important to me to evaluate any idea based on certain criteria. One of those criteria specifically requires me to ask “What does this ad communicate?” and “Does this message align with what the brand is and what I want it and its message to be?” Each word, image and detail are chosen with specific intent and purpose as we carefully and deliberately craft our work. We think creatively and differently and we push ourselves and the envelope to develop unique work for each and every one of our projects, and sometimes we do a little line-crossing. Our line of work permits that on occasion.

Hyundai’s message in this new ad is crystal clear: Our emissions are so clean, no one can kill themselves with the exhaust from a Hyundai anymore. This is certainly a unique perspective on their latest selling proposition, but one that I feel ultimately undermines their brand.

Hyundai – for your suicidal loved ones

Hyundai – as safe as a room with padded walls

Hyundai – suicide-free or your money back

Hyundai – the only way out requires you to open the garage door

I do not see how this ad in any way communicates a message that I would want associated with my company or any company I am a part of. I do not want to be the company that is publicly lambasted for such an insensitive and offensive commercial. I do not want to evoke the kind of emotion in people that makes them relive painful memories. This commercial is the wrong move for Hyundai, and it will be interesting to see how they handle what is certain to be a maelstrom of intense vitriol.

As a member of the ad community, I am saddened that this work was approved, produced and run. Did Hyundai cross the line? You bet they did.