Shame on you, Mike Altman. Your sweet melody promised that suicide was painless. You lied, and General Motors, which trusted you, has spent the better part of this past week fielding criticism from suicide prevention groups. Their Super Bowl ad depicting an assembly line robot rolling itself off a bridge was apparently a little too close to reality. Incidentally, it was a dream the robot was having — if that makes this story any less absurd.
USA Today reported yesterday the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s concern, expressed in a letter to GM, that “the spot may encourage people to consider suicide as a solution to their problems. The group demanded that GM apologize, not air the spot again and remove it from its Web site.”
“WOW, and I thought the people behind the Snickers controversy were crazy,” blogged Don Johnson.
GM has not only refused to apologize for its ad; when you visit the beleaguered automaker’s Web site, the ad plays automatically. “At the moment, GM is basically giving them the finger,” observed Wesley Kray. “So gogogo GM!”
Such cheerleading aside, the AFSP was hardly alone in thinking the commercial was in poor taste. “[A]fter watching what happened to that robot,” wrote Mark Graban, “I wondered how many actual human GM employees (or former employees) have been driven into bad jobs, depression, or suicide because of what GM did to them (see: Flint, Michigan). That ad is disgusting.” The AFSP claims that it has received 250 complaints from those who have been personally affected by suicide.
But those opposed to the ad are small in number compared to those opposed to opposing ads.
“We actually have some advice for the 250 people who took the time to call the anti-Suicidites and complain about this ad,” FITSNews For Now callously wrote. “Ready? Just kill yourself.”
Gino, on autoblog.com, hoped they would take a different route: “Why don’t these people get a life? No pun intended.”
The bloggers cannot give enough credit to GM for sticking up for itself. Snickers was quick to issue an apology for its “homophobic” ad in which two men accidentally kissed over a candy bar, and Kevin Federline quickly caved to the National Restaurant Association for somehow demeaning people who serve fries by implying that he’d rather be a millionaire.
“Seriously, people, stop it,” wrote paulmcenany on Beyond Madison Avenue. “Snickers, you suck for not standing up for yourself and pulling the ad. GM, you suck for lots of reasons, but least of which was that spot.”
And with YouTube and other video sites making it possible for millions to watch spots from the big game over and over, it seems certain that this will be the first of many Super Bowls where the ads are picked apart for anything that is remotely offensive, dangerous, or tasteless.
Dan Goldberg is a CJR intern.
“Is an apology necessary?” asked Stephen, a MySpace blogger from Arkansas. “I don’t think so, but I may have missed the dramatic spike in the robotic suicide rate this week.”