Hyundai suicide ad backfires

Chris PolechonskiSenior Research Executive Digital, Media and Technology
May 01, 2013, 2:30 PM UTC

Last Thursday (25 April), Hyundai issued an apology and pulled an online advert which featured a man attempting suicide with exhaust fumes in his garage before being thwarted by a zero emission engine. The advert, highlight the car’s “100% water emissions” received widespread criticism upon its release on YouTube, which both led to the advert’s removal and continued after its demise.

Criticism was especially rife on social media. Using SoMA, YouGov’s social media analysis tool, it is possible to measure the proportion of the UK Twitter and Facebook populations that heard about Hyundai following this event and also what people heard.

On Twitter we can see that 0.25% of the Twitter population had heard about Hyundai on 24 April, the day before the online advert went viral. This rose to 4.66% the next day and remained at 4.45% on 26 April. Although this reach dropped over the next few days, the fact that it was still at 1.85% on 30 April means that the news about the Hyundai suicide advert was definitely noticed by the UK Twitter population.

On Facebook the rise was from 0.08% of the UK Facebook population on 24 April, to 1.56% on April 25 and 1.31% on April 26. Unlike Twitter, the number of people who had heard about Hyundai on Facebook fell back to normal levels on April 27, with a reach of 0.09%.

As well as indicating a noticeable increase in reach, SoMA also enables us to look at exactly what was said on Twitter. For example, looking at tweets from April 26 (the day after the Hyundai suicide advert went viral):

  • Linda Holmes This Hyundai ad is indeed in rather shockingly poor taste. Good grief. http://t.co/ynE3mWx81d Posted on 26th April 2013 at 5:53pm
  • Kate Maclennan A car ad that plays on the idea of someone attempting suicide. Who the hell would want to buy such a car? #Hyundai http://t.co/oft5bG81Mp Posted on 26th April 2013 at 6:51pm
  • Cameron Yarde Jnr Using suicide as a wacky way to sell a car? Really? How could anybody think that Hyundai ad was a good idea? And how was it ever signed off? Posted on 26th April 2013 at 8:08pm

Therefore, we can see how Hyundai’s misguided advert backfired, leading to negative publicity when in fact the objective was to promote its new zero emissions car. Twitter and Facebook played a crucial role in both a source of criticism and the place through which a large number of people heard about Hyundai.

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