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Another Super Bowl ad controversy: This time, the GM suicide robot!

February 11, 2007

If you thought the controversies over the Snickers Super Bowl ad and the Nationwide fast-food ad starring K-Fed were ridiculous, wait until you hear the newly-emerging controversy over General Motors’ ad featuring the robot assembly arm.

Here’s the ad via YouTube:

The New York-based American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says it’s getting complaints from around the country about the ad featuring the assembly robot that’s fired for dropping a bolt, then commits suicide by leaping from a bridge in a dream sequence.

The foundation believes the ad is insensitive to families of suicide victims, and wants the ad pulled from YouTube and other video-sharing sites as well.

More after the jump …

From the AP report:

“It was inappropriate to use depression and suicide as a way to sell cars,” said Robert Gebbia, the foundation’s executive director.

The ad is the latest from the Super Bowl to come under fire. Earlier this week, a commercial for Snickers candy bars was benched after complaints that it was homophobic. And aspiring rapper Kevin Federline apologized after a restaurant trade group said it was insulted by an ad that starred him as a fast-food worker. …

Mark LaNeve, GM’s vice president of sales, service and marketing, said the automaker had no plans to stop airing the ad. It had a relatively small number of runs scheduled after the Super Bowl, and those will continue, he said.

The ad was screened by focus groups for insensitivity, and all found it amusing and effective in conveying the message about GM’s quality, LaNeve said.

“It’s a dream sequence. It’s not a person, and it’s a robot that is a fantasy. I mean, that robot doesn’t move around. C’mon,” LaNeve said. …

But Lisamarie Miller, 39, of Palatine, Ill., said she’ll never buy a GM vehicle after seeing the ad online. The member of a the Chicago-area chapter of AFSP found out about it from the foundation — and has been sharing her disgust online as well as with friends, family and co-workers.

“I was completely outraged,” said Miller, whose 21-year-old brother battled depression before killing himself in 1993. “GM is not being a responsible citizen by airing something that so closely imitates life.”

Closely imitates life? How many robots have you seen jump off bridges?

I admire the stand GM is taking on this issue. You can’t please everyone. And this ad, which was widely judged as one of the better Bowl ads this year, was a creative, humorous take on GM’s “pursuit of quality.” They did the necessary sensitivity focus groups in advance … the right thing to do.

Actually, if anyone was to complain, I would have guessed that one of the labor unions would have spoken up for firing the robot for unjust causes. Guess it wasn’t a Teamsters’ robot…

The blog Winding Road mentions that the ad wasn’t funny to them, because of the joke made about the robot’s firing, and the close parallel it makes to GM’s current job cuts. Now THAT I can agree with!

[UPDATE: I take back anything positive I said about GM for standing strong. TV Squad reports that GM will “edit” the ad to remove the suicide scene.]

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