Politics Magazine

Why, Hyundai?

Posted on the 26 April 2013 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

Hyundai has landed itself in a heap of bad publicity after launching on online advert in which a man tried to kill himself with the fumes from the firm’s latest car model, but ultimately failed because the fumes are ’100% water’. Though the company has apologised for the tasteless video, one has to ask how a supposedly professional advertising agency, Innocean, could have ever thought that it was acceptable to use such a painful theme to make a feeble attempt at selling a product. These businesses are supposed to be in tune with the wishes and weaknesses of the public, and yet they failed to consider basic moral standards, or the fundamental tragedy that millions in this country have been touched by suicide.

The only reason that advertising such as this could even have been considered is that the trend is towards adverts that manipulate, shock or irritate consumers into submission. Recent adverts that are good examples include:

a radio feature for a ticket firm in which the listener is audiologically assaulted with the sound of two wailing toddlers until we are informed that cheap gig tickets might be a preferable evening (which is supposed to be more peaceful?!)

a print advert for a shower gel which centres on a picture, taken from behind, of a naked man standing in a field. It’s not really a sight I want to see over my breakfast.

a Christmas TV advert from a catalog shopping businesses with children expressing affection for their parents on the basis of the large number of overpriced and excessive Christmas presents.

a mobile phone shop advert which had Jesus endorsing a smartphone deal that was on offer.

Admittedly, a critical reader could argue that I am making a mountain out of a molehill. Nudity and shameless consumerism are hardly new phenomena. But we are talking about a loosely regulated industry which is designed to distort our desires and aspirations to corporate advantage. We are talking about an industry which has been proven to alter the psychology of our children, and has been getting visibly more aggressive over the past few decades. We are talking about an industry whose reach extends throughout the media, and communications, onto our streets and into transport systems and community centres. It is impossible to escape the reach of a wasteful, exploitative propaganda machine (I use the word in its original sense).

Gambling, alcohol, junk food, gas guzzlers and expensive credit are all unhealthy or destructive goods and services that should be excluded at least from broadcast media and yet have grown in visibility of late. Particularly when economic and social conditions are in decline, it is interpretive that ‘diversions’ such as these become less, not more attractive. And yet these have crept into popular entertainment with the introduction of product placement.

It’s time that, as a society, we had a serious discussion about the extent to which we want advertising to influence our lives. At the very least, we should introduce an ethics test for would-be advertising ethics to weed out those who think that suicide is funny.

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