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Archives: April 2013

Hyundai Apologizes for Ad Depicting Suicide Attempt

For the second time this month, a company is apologizing for making light of suicide in their advertizing. While these unapproved McDonald’s posters were distasteful and insensitive, Hynudai’s “Pipe Job” spot, which actually depicts a failed suicide attempt, takes the decidedly un-funny joke to an entirely different level.

The ad shows a man attempting to end his life with carbon monoxide poisoning by breathing the exhaust of a new Hyundai. The joke’s on him, though; the car’s emissions are so clean, he lives to see another day.

Yeah. We’re not laughing, either.

In fact, because some of us have immediate family members who have suffered with depression and have attempted suicide, we just can’t muster our usual “lighten up” attitude for this one — it’s just plain offensive (and potentially harmful). There is ample data showing that careless depictions of suicide can actually cause more suicides to occur. And this ad not only depicts a pretty detailed blue-print for how to kill yourself, but it also neglects to show any evidence of the impact that this man’s actions would have on others, or suggest that there is any kind of help available to him.

A spokesman for Hyundai told Forbes via email that the video was created in Europe by a European agency (Innocean Europe), and said that Hyundai Motor North America was not involved in any way in its production or posting. He also passed on the following statement from Hyundai Europe:

“We understand that some people may have found the iX35 video offensive.  We are very sorry if we have offended anyone.  We have taken the video down and have no intention of using it in any of our advertising or marketing.”

Hyundai North America has since publicly issued the following statement:

We at Hyundai Motor America are shocked and saddened by the depiction of a suicide attempt in an inappropriate UK video featuring a Hyundai. Suicide merits thoughtful discussion, not this type of treatment.

While we do feel that this apology and the decision to pull the ad were appropriate damage-control responses, we are a little surprised the ad made it that far in the first place without someone somewhere along the line saying, “gee, guys, it’s clever and all, but this goes quite a bit too far”. Mental illness is still a fairly taboo subject in many respects, and those suffering from it often feel too ashamed to talk openly about what they are going through or to seek help. We don’t see ads making light of other life-threatening disabilities, so why is depression any different?

On principle, we weren’t honestly sure we even wanted to include the video in this post, but realized readers would likely want to see what we’re talking about. The ad is below the jump, but we personally found it disturbing enough to suggest you use discretion before viewing.

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Roll Call: Cumulus Media, Smithsonian Media and Public Relations Global Network

Bill Bungeroth has been named vice president/market manager for Cumulus Media, San Francisco. Bungeroth assumes his new post immediately, overseeing the legendary Cumulus’ San Francisco brands, KNBR, 107.7 The Bone (KSAN), KTCT and KFOG. Bungeroth has had a significant role with Cumulus. He co-founded the radio group, and was named Cumulus’ initial President and CEO. Bungeroth comes to the position after a significant radio and entrepreneurial career with strong ratings and revenue successes. He conceived and launched “The Huckabee Report” with Governor Mike Huckabee, now on 560 stations. He also championed “The Download with iTunes” and most recently, led the executive team that launched the 24/7 Comedy Network nationwide. (Release)

Smithsonian Media elevated marketing director Judy Glassman to associate publisher/marketing. She is now responsible for developing multi-platform marketing programs for the Smithsonian flagship along with Air & Space Smithsonian, goSmithsonian, Smithsonian Channel and Glassman is past marketing executive at six Condé Nast magazines: Allure, Gentlemen’s Quarterly, Glamour, Lucky, Modern Bride and Self. (

The Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) announced the addition of three new worldwide agency affiliates in Chile, Portugal and Tokyo, bringing its global reach to 47 cities worldwide. Joining the ranks of PRGN are RumboCierto Communications representing Chile, Global Press out of Portugal and Integrate Communications from Tokyo. RumboCierto Communications provides its clients with strategic communications counseling in a direct and personalized way. The agency has a core competency in mass media and government relations with a particular focus on public affairs. Global Press is a boutique-sized PR firm specialized in providing strategic direction, corporate communications and media relations counsel to both private and public companies. Integrate Communications is comprised of a team of young and dynamic practitioners who bring a global perspective to client service. They have a core competency in developing and implementing strategic marketing communications campaigns on behalf of clients in the consumer products, leisure and food industries. (Release)

The Ticker: Kindle TV; iTunes Turns 10; Power of Shaving; Hyundai Pulls Ad; PR Clients

Spin the Agencies of Record

I wish love was like volleyball, you call “mine” and everyone backs off. – The Internet

M&C Saatchi PR is excited to announce another addition to its roster of Sports & Entertainment clients. The Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) has chosen M&C Saatchi PR as national AOR, effective immediately. The team, led by SVP Sandra Carreon-John and VP of Sports Richard Barker, will oversee strategy and outreach for the brand, focusing on sports, consumer, entertainment, and health & fitness media.

In its 30th year, the AVP is a leading lifestyle sports and entertainment company that produces, markets and distributes professional beach volleyball events worldwide. Organized in 1983, it has operated the industry’s most prominent national touring series, the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour, featuring the top American men and women competitors in the sport.

The 2013 AVP season gets underway in August, beginning in Salt Lake City, UT, August 16th. Other tour stops include Cincinnati, OH, St. Petersburg, FL, Santa Barbara and Huntington Beach, CA.

With a number of well-known sports and entertainment clients in its roster, M&C Saatchi PR continues to solidify its place in this sector. The firm’s other sports accounts include the United States Olympic Committee, Reebok, CCM and Street Soccer USA. Read more

Elasticity’s Rally for St. Louis Funds First Projects

We’re all rooting for America’s cities these days.  They’re coming back. Maybe it’s the sports, the aversion to lengthy car commutes or the nightlife, or a stubborn pride dating back to the classic 1970s the classic Daily News headline “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”

After bouncing around several other American cities, Aaron Perlut settled in St. Louis with his family, and along with partners Brian Cross and Andy Barnett, headquartered their agency Elasticity there.

Perlut in particular believes wholeheartedly that the city doesn’t suck. The need to plant deep roots in the community to grow the firm and the fondness for his region spurred a column to fight against the notion of suckitude. With 158,000 views and counting, “St. Louis Doesn’t Suck” became  jumping off point for a not-for-profit crowdsourced and crowdfunded platform Rally Saint Louis to address the city’s reputation issues. The column begins as a rant and ends as an outline for an integrated marketing plan, complete with SEO kicker.

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Johnson & Johnson Loves You Very, Very Much

After a 10-year hiatus, Johnson & Johnson is back in the brand identity game. A slew of recent recalls, law suits and bad press, have undermined J& J’s relationship with the public and the corporate juggernaut knows it’s time for some damage control. That’s why it is targeting the golden goose of emotional marketing: your family.

Even the most cynical realms of the public can’t resist the emotional pull of the love felt between a mother and her child, a grandfather and his granddaughter, a teacher and her students. It’s “Terms of Endearment” meets Benadryl to the sound of a lobotomized version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N Roses for some dulled edge (or carefully calculated demographic appeal).

Anyone who grew up with Johnson & Johnson products—who didn’t?—has had a positive emotional connection with the brand since we were babies. From the comforting smell of baby powder to shampoo that doesn’t make you cry, we were raised by our moms and Johnson & Johnson products. Don’t underestimate the power of that deeply internalized association. It makes Facebook feel like a total disheveled stranger. Read more

Hollywood’s Wary Embrace of Big Data

In recent years the movie business has used social data to connect with audiences and stepped up its reliance on quantitative data to forecast box office revenues. However, if data represented a person, that individual may get a seat at L.A.’s trendiest restaurant, but would still be seated in the back room. That was the gist of a Tribeca Film Festival Industry Talks panel on Tuesday in New York.

“There are three countervailing forces at play that we need to balance, namely the artistic creative side, technological advances and commercial considerations”, said Jason Kassin, co-founder and CEO of Film Track, a rights management company.

“Navigating the world with data points is different than it was five years ago”, added Eugene Hernandez, Film Society of Lincoln Center‘s director of digital strategy. The biggest change is the use of sentiment analysis to monitor audience reactions, though the benefits appear mixed:

  • Sentiment-based date is broadly used: “Big data has become socialized”, said Bill Livek, vice chairman and CEO of entertainment measurement company Rentrak. Their customers include not only big studios, but also independent studios and distributors across the country.
  • Social media monitoring yields massive, but imprecise data: Sentiment analysis measures movie reviews, ratings and audience comments. As Stacy Spikes, CEO and co-founder of theatrical subscription service MoviePass noted, “Going to the movies now is a communal experience”. Nevertheless, social media data isn’t projectable, the panelists cautioned.
  • Sentiment analysis can point to the right direction, according to Christina Warren, Mashable’s senior tech analyst. “But since monitoring is mostly done by machine, it’s best to use the tool to help target audiences and markets”, she explained. Livek concurred, adding, “A social media database can drive certain activities, but not content creation.”

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‘Excedrin’ Manages to Make Migraines into a Fun Facebook Sweepstakes

Ever feel like you’re living in The Truman Show and every ad you see is geared directly at you? While we know that this is becoming more and more true with targeted online ads, it still never fails to freak me out when I am merrily going about my business, and suddenly the promoted tweet at the top of my feed is for something I desperately need at that very moment.

As a lifelong migraine-sufferer, a recent tweet from Excedrin had me looking over my shoulder for the candid camera.

Knowing I had a headache coming on, I decided to get all of my computer-related work out of the way. When I logged into Twitter, the first thing I saw was this:

Me,” I thought, “done deal.” But then, in my migraine-induced half-conscious brain fog, I began to over-analyze Excedrin’s question. Why vote for who is most deserving? Sweet merciful heaven, is there a shortage and this is their way of rationing? Or, even worse, is this some sort of Joker-style social experiment to expose the dark underbelly of our society that would label certain people undeserving of pain relief? Fortunately, it was at this point that the rational, as-of-yet-unaffected-by-migraine part of my brain told me it was time to go to bed. 

Once I had emerged from my twelve-hour headache hibernation, I decided to check out (with a clear mind) how migraines could be made into a sweepstakes. Read more

The Ticker: Ford Sales Up; Apple Stock Down; Samsung Delay; Twitter; Domino’s Dream

PETA and SeaWorld Make the Perfect PR Storm

PETA is the crazy aunt Esther of public relations. You never know what she is going to say or do, and in a way you kind of love her for it. In many regards PETA is synonymous with public relations, because much of the public associates the brand with one of its many controversial campaigns.

From leveraging the power of human sexuality to animal cruelty, PETA has always managed to gain the public’s attention. This time, however, PETA is focusing its efforts on a more select audience: the stockholders at SeaWorld. PETA paid $2,273.70 for 80 shares of SeaWorld stock, which went public on April 19. With money comes access, and that amount is just enough to provide PETA access to SeaWorld’s annual meetings where it can promote its agenda and ask for policy changes.

SeaWorld, unsurprisingly, is not happy. PETA vehemently disapproves of SeaWorld’s very existence, claiming the park enslaves wildlife such as orca whales and profits from the imprisoning and display of animals. The treatment of animals is an emotional issue that resonates with the public, no matter where they stand on the issue. This makes the confrontation compelling for anyone in our industry. This is a battle for the hearts and minds of the American people.

Both PETA and SeaWorld claim that education is critical to winning over the public. PETA wants the public to understand SeaWorld’s true practices and motivations; SeaWorld wants the public to understand PETA’s true practices and motivations. Both believe they own the higher moral ground.

PETA has clearly been very successful at creating controversy, and by creating this controversy it can claim PR success the same way modern art—no matter how untalented and confusing—can achieve legitimacy by compelling people to talk about art. But industry experts know that emotions come and go.

To win the public the facts must prevail.