Thursday, April 25, 2013

Engage the viewer? Sometimes it works too well.

Out philosophy is reaching for the consumer's heart!

(from Innocean website)

Boring advertisements are boring.

If you are advertising, you want to create an ad that speaks to your potential customers at some level. One word that is often used is "engage" - you want to engage your customers.

Holly Brockwell is an advertising copywriter, who did some work at Honda at one point. So when she saw a recent ad from Hyundai, produced by the firm Innocean, she was certainly engaged by the ad. So much so that she was moved to write to Hyundai and Innocean.

As an advertising creative, I would like to congratulate you on achieving the visceral reaction we all hope for. On prompting me to share it on my Twitter page and my blog.

The ad really spoke to Brockwell. Really.

I would not like to congratulate you on making me cry for my dad.

When your ad started to play, and I saw the beautifully-shot scenes of taped-up car windows with exhaust feeding in, I began to shake. I shook so hard that I had to put down my drink before I spilt it. And then I started to cry. I remembered looking out of the window to see the police and ambulance, wondering what was happening. I remember mum sitting me down to explain that daddy had gone to sleep and would not be waking up, and no, he wouldn’t be able to take me to my friend’s birthday party next week. No, he couldn’t come back from heaven just for that day, but he would like to if he could. I remember finding out that he had died holding my sister’s soft toy rabbit in his lap.

Surprisingly, when I reached the conclusion of your video, where we see that the man has in fact not died thanks to Hyundai’s clean emissions, I did not stop crying. I did not suddenly feel that my tears were justified by your amusing message. I just felt empty. And sick. And I wanted my dad.

The ad is no longer available at the place where Brockwell originally found it (surprise! It's "subject to a trademark claim!"), but you can find it in Gawker's account of the story.

But when I went to read an account of Hyundai's apology, I learned something else:

The Guardian has also come under fire after it picked the video as one of the 'best adverts of the week' in a column. The text has now been changed, but it originally said: "In order to demonstrate the benign nature of the advertised vehicle's emissions, we find out what happens when a desperate man feeds his exhaust pipe into the car in a bid to end his life. Mind you, as he trudges back to his house to continue his meaningless existence, it doesn't seem likely that the car has saved his life for very long - unless, of course, his suicide attempt was prompted by despair about global warming."

So far at least two apologies have resulted. Well, you can judge whether the Guardian apologized or not:

Innocean was unavailable for comment at the time of writing, but a Hyundai spokeswoman said: "Hyundai understands that the video has caused offence. We apologize unreservedly. The video has been taken down and will not be used in any of our advertising or marketing."

A Guardian News & Media spokeswoman said: "The Guardian's weekly 'Ad break' section takes a look at the latest new ads from around the world. However, it was inappropriate to include the Hyundai 'Pipe Job' advert in this round-up and it has now been removed from our website."
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