GM changing robot suicide ad
Automaker agrees to changes after meeting with suicide prevention group that objected to spot showing fired robot jumping off bridge.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors has decided to change an ad that had shown an assembly-line robot throwing itself off a bridge after making a mistake, two days after it said it was sticking with the spot in the face of criticism.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention had issued a statement Wednesday saying that the ad that first aired during the Super Bowl sends dangerous and insensitive messages, and it asked members of the public to write to the automaker and ask that the ad be pulled.
GM spokesman John McDonald said the decision to change the spot to edit out the reference to suicide came after GM executives met with the group Friday morning.
"We talked to them, heard their concerns and decided to make an adjustment," he said.
Wylie G. Tene, spokesman for the suicide prevention group, praised GM's decision. The group had been very harsh in its criticism of the ad, detailing how people should contact the automaker to register their objection.
"The ad, in its carelessness, portrays suicide as a viable option when someone fails or loses their job," said the group's original statement. "Research has also shown that graphic, sensationalized or romanticized descriptions of suicide deaths in any medium can contribute to suicide contagion, popularly referred to as 'copycat' suicides."
GM (Charts) spokeswoman Ryndee Carney had defended the ad earlier in the week, saying "Our robot ad is a story of GM's commitment to quality. That was the predominant impression by previewers of the ad. It is not intended to offend anyone. Advertising during the Super Bowl brings instant critiques, both positive and negative."
The 60-second ad, which cost the automaker about $5 million to show during the game, shows a cute robot being fired after dropping a screw it was supposed to be installing on a car on a GM assembly-line.
The robot is shown forced to take a number of menial jobs, including holding a speaker at a fast-food drive through and becoming upset enough to throw itself off a bridge.
But as the robot hits the water, the ad then cuts back to show the robot still on the job at GM, and that the suicide was only a fantasy. An announcer then explains how everyone at GM is now obsessed with the quality of the GM products and talks about vehicles' 100,000-mile warranty.
McDonald said he understands that the suicide reference will be the only thing edited out of the ad. He said GM had the ad prominently on its own Web site and Google's video sharing site YouTube.
He said the revised ad will be posted again when changes are made, but it was not clear Friday if those changes would be in time for the new spot to air on the Grammy's on Sunday, which like the Super Bowl, will be broadcast on CBS. A different ad will be shown in its place if the revised ad is not ready.
The original ad was generally popular with viewers of the Super Bowl. An online poll by Spotbowl.com, which asked viewers to rate the various ads, ranked the GM Robot ad as the fourth-most popular, with an average score of 2.93, just behind the No. 1 ad on the site, a Blockbuster (Charts) ad that had an average score of 2.98.
Another Super Bowl ad ranking by Adbowl.com ranked the GM robot ad as No. 9.
The more traditional car and truck ads by GM competitors, such as DaimlerChrysler (Charts), Toyota Motor (Charts) and Honda Motor (Charts), which aired during the Super Bowl, did not rank nearly as well on the Spotbowl ranking, nor did the other GM ads. The best ranked of the other car or truck ads was No. 13 for the Toyota Tundra's "see-saw" commercial, which showed off the company's new pickup towing and breaking capabilities. An ad for the Chrysler Aspen was one of the least popular ads on the ranking, finishing No. 58 out of 61 ads.
Brewer Anheuser-Busch (Charts) had the most of the most popular ads in the two surveys, with 4 of the top 10 on Spotbowl's survey, and 6 of the top 10 on Adbowl. But critics generally gave bad reviews to this year's selection of advertisements.
Earlier this week, candy bar Snickers pulled an ad criticized as homophobic that showed two auto mechanics becoming upset after accidentally kissing while both eating the same Snickers' bar.
Masterfoods USA, the subsidiary of closely held Mars Inc. that makes Snickers, issued a statement apologizing for the ad.
"We know that humor is highly subjective and understand that some people may have found the ad offensive. Clearly that was not our intent," Masterfoods said in a statement.
But the Snickers ad was far less popular with viewers than the GM ad, ranking No. 25 on the Spotbowl ranking.
Some ad critics suggested that GM's robot ad was insensitive and a bad idea for a company that offered buyouts and retirement packages to get about 35,000 factory workers to leave the company in the last year in an effort to stem losses.
Dave Regan, a Michigan State University advertising instructor, told the Detroit News that the ad was in poor taste - given the job upheaval at GM and other automakers.
"When you saw those visuals, you had to question the people on the team," Regan said.
A spokesman for the United Auto Workers, which represented the workers who have left GM as well as those still on the job, said the union had no comment on the ad.