VW Bows To Protests, Kills Suicidal Ad

by , , Feb 16, 2007, 5:00 AM
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For the second time in two years, Volkswagen's advertising has landed the car company in hot water.

First, it was a spot that apparently never aired but was widely circulated on the Internet. It showed a Middle Eastern man wearing a Palestinian scarf detonating a bomb inside a VW Polo at a crowded outdoor café. So strong is the car, the blast stays inside. VW distanced itself from that ad, saying it was only a test and never meant for public consumption.

Stateside, VW has just pulled its four-day-old spot, called "Jumper," which shows a man despondent over car prices contemplating suicide on a bridge. Learning that VW has models that sell for less than $17,000, he changes his mind. The ad was created by Crispin Porter & Bogusky of Miami, which referred calls to VW.

Yesterday morning, VW was steadfast in its response to suicide prevention and mental health groups who had called on the carmaker to stop showing the ad, saying that "controversy is not something VW has shied away from in its marketing." Hours later came the news that it had decided to pull the spot.

"While our current advertising campaign is all about the optimism inherent to the Volkswagen brand, sensitivity is also key to who we are," said a spokesperson. "With that sensitivity in mind, we have withdrawn this television commercial." The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention lauded the move and thanked the company.

VW joins General Motors, which pulled a similar ad under similar pressure. It showed a robot who commits suicide by jumping off a bridge because he made a mistake on the assembly line, but awakens to find it was just a dream. GM has said it will tweak the ending of the ad, created by Deutsch/L.A., which first ran during the Super Bowl. The new ad will run during the Academy Awards on Feb. 25.

VW is running two other ads, neither of which are controversial, the company said.

The time between protest and pull is getting shorter. Calls for GM to pull its robo-cide ad came several days before GM bowed to that pressure. It took VW less than a 24-hour news cycle to follow suit. Efforts to have the ads removed were coordinated by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

VW spent slightly less than $300 million on measured media in 2006, down nearly 15% from the previous year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Crispin, Porter was awarded the business in late 2005 without a review.

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