GM Agrees To Edit Super Bowl To Appease Offended Groups

Posted by: David Kiley on February 9, 2007

In the end, it will be the right thing strategically for GM, if not creatively. General Motors today is editing the Super Bowl spot it aired last Sunday to change a sequence showing a despondent robot fired from the assembly line committing suicide by jumping off a bridge.

The suicide jump was a dream sequence, but suicide prevention groups this week have been peppering GM with complaints, e-mails and letters expressing their objection to the ad.

“The purpose of the ad was always to display our obsession with quality that allows us to offer the best warranty in the industry. So, to me making an edit to get back on that message was a no brainer,” GM sales and marketing chief Mark LaNeve told me today.

As I have written, the story in the ad, which scored #1 among Super Bowl ads on ESPN.com’s poll, was meant to convey GM’s obsession with quality. The robot drops a screw on the line. The other workers glare at him, and he’s escorted from the factory. He has a series of humiliating jobs, like working a fast-food drive-up lane. He walks around, forlorn, lost, and missing the GM cars he sees driving by. He gets to a bridge, and hurls himself off. But as he hits the water, he wakes up in the factory. It was all a nightmare.

GM isn’t putting a statemet out on this. But a GM official confirmed the ad is being re-edited a day after one GM spokesman said the ad would not be pulled and that it would run on the Grammy Awards telcast.

The ad is apparently being edited so that the robot doesn’t actually jump off the bridge. He stops short of it, and then wakes up in the factory.

As I blogged yesterday, I don’t think the suicide prevention groups are correct in their objections. But GM provided an easy target to generate awareness for their cause, and a victory lap to take in front of their constituents.

The agency that produced the ad, Deutsch/LA, did a very good job on the ad. But from GM’s standpoint, the story around the ad was going to be about suicide and not quality. The suicide prevention groups were on the verge of banding together into one chorus of 200 some organizations yelling at GM. These are good people, and GM would have looked bad if they stood them off.

Ironically, Mars caved in immdiately to gay enti-defamation groups who objected to their Super Bowl Snickers ad in which two mechanics were overcome by their love of Snickers and ate a bar, each one munching from the opposite end, until they met in the middle in an uncomfortable lip lock. Objections from those groups would have been much easier to stand off for Mars. But the candy company had no stomach for that fight.

Reader Comments

Don B

February 10, 2007 11:30 PM

It's too bad that yet, a small minority still have the power to change the majority in any issue that they don't agree with!

Trevor B

February 12, 2007 11:17 PM

The voices of the few are heard loud and clear. One person gets offended and all hell breaks loose. Governments, lawyers, and the media, are to blame. Too many people out there with axes to grind for their own perceived causes.

Amber

February 14, 2007 11:50 AM

It's a shame that you have to lose someone you to suicide to see why an ad like this is inappropriate and insensitive. Perhaps, four years ago before my Mom had died by suicide I would have agreed with you. However, now I do not. I know how fragile life is. I know how easy it is for the message of taking ones life can be given. Does an ad like this inspire others? Yes. There are thousands upon thousands of people everyday who are coping with suicidal ideation and believe that the world or their world would be better off without them, whether those thoughts are caused by mental illness, substance abuse, trauma, unemployment (as the ad suggests), poverty, or failing health. Ads such as these imply that suicide is a viable option for solving your problem. I hope you never have to suffer the loss of a loved one to suicide to understand why ads such as these are painful to those of us left behind.

Deanna L Shaw

February 15, 2007 1:24 AM

Infuriating really. Such special interest groups may at their root embrace an honorable charge yet it annoys me to no end that their reach extends this far. I don't see special interest groups taking such a public stand to pull songs, movies or other forms of entertainment imparting similar or more explicit elements of suicide, violence, sexuality and other hot-button issues. Hmm - maybe because it would be a less effective publicity stunt.

As for GM's minor consents to edit the last frame of their ad – I can only say that it will do their image more harm than good. Generally speaking when you're affronted by such "loose associations" a reactive action that appears to lend credibility to the accusation is far more damaging than simply holding your ground; and much more so when you've already publicly rejected the relevancy of those accusations.

The fact that the ad was well received is a reflection of where the general public stood on it's intended, and perceived, message and relenting in any small manner was a show of poor judgment by GM.

Perceptions forced into the media by special interest groups wanting the attention clearly should not be responded to in the same manner as perceived public perception.

Ian

February 16, 2007 12:32 PM

Great viewpoint. Thanks for your insight... loved the stroy.

Cindy

February 17, 2007 11:24 AM

Amber is correct. Most people will not understand how tragic suicide is until they experience a loss by suicide. People who suffer from mental illness are sick just as people who suffer from cancer. An ad such as GM's ad or the VW ad, should not present suicide as an option to any life situation. There is always another option. I find these ads a tragic reflection of how these companies viewed mental illness before pulling their respective ads. It is my hope that they have been educated and therefore pulled the ads to protect the health and well being of our country's health. I believe the risk of sensationalizing suicide in any manner is grave. Did you know that 32,000 people in the US die each year by suicide? By the way that averages to about one person ending their life every 16 minutes. I do whatever I can to help educate everyone I am in contact with. I was more than willing to start the fight for the GM ad on the Monday morning after the superbowl by sending an email as a follow up to a Wall Street Journal article about the superbowl ads. I also felt compelled to figure out Mr. Wagoner's email address and the email address of the GM spokesperson who said they would not revise the ad because they had not received a tsunami of complaints. Hopefully they each received the tsunami of complaints after that.
I lost my 15 year old son to suicide 8 years ago. He and all the others are my motivation to continue the fight!

red

February 17, 2007 11:53 PM

with great power comes great responsibility. that's the basic tenet. as advertisers and marketeers, we have great power and great responsibilities.

the comments that i have read here about "how a loose group could change the actions of the many" are at best ill-informed, at worst stupid.

with risk of sounding "buzz-y": haven't you heard of the tipping point? haven't you heard of the "power of the target of one"?

special interest groups probably are not the most ideal of groups and perhaps they have a hidden agenda - well, who doesn't? altruistic intention? perhaps not.

here's a question for you: why is it that when we make fun of gays and lesbians, or of obese men and women, or of jews or of any minority, we get slammed? when we 'make fun of life', we don't?

how many teens are now contemplating suicide as you read this? how many teens are now contemplating that life is something "not worth it"?

true, an ad is an ad is an ad. but that is exactly what's missing.

for a country that has sent thousands of young women and men to iraq to die, it's not surprising. advertisers whether they like it or not have a responsibility - and that responsibility needs to be inculcated even more and incorporated in the culture of the Americas.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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