Inappropriate portrayal of suicide in Hyundai advert

It is shocking that any advertising company could have found the depiction of a man seeking to take his own life with car exhausts a suitable subject to feature in a car advert.

Advertising companies need to understand and practice the excellent media reporting guidelines for suicide that are available from the Samaritans. It is inexcusable for them to cause any grief or suffering with inappropriate references to suicide.

The Judi Meadows Memorial Fund have written a letter to the Editors of all major newspapers to share our view.

Dear Letter Editor:

I share the personal plea of Londoner Holly Brockwell, who wrote a devastatingly powerful letter to Hyundai and their advertising company, Innocean Europe, about the profoundly disturbing impact of their ill-judged online advert showing a man gassing himself in a car. In a bid to demonstrate the car’s zero emissions Hyundai have caused distress and completely neglected the rigorous body of research that demonstrates the indisputable link that inappropriate portrayals of suicide can lead to imitative behaviour.

Understanding the impact that a commercial can have on its viewers, both desired and inadvertent, must surely be a critical element of the creative process? Advertising companies know, and capitalise on the power they hold. But given this, they need to also exercise the responsibility that comes with it.

I hope this case, played out in the world-wide high stakes arena of corporate reputation management, will demonstrate the urgent need for advertising agencies, and their clients, to follow the lead of newspapers and broadcasters in implementing the suicide media reporting guidelines produced by mental health organisations and the Samaritans.

I plead though, that it doesn’t stop people having the courage to hold the difficult conversations that suicide necessitates. Suicide is a valid subject for discussion, and in fact, it is essential that talk of suicide take place publicly, in order to tackle the surrounding stigma and enable people experiencing suicidal thoughts to feel able to come forward and seek help. My mother took her own life in 2009, and I talk about her suicide, as far from encouraging the act, I know the evidence shows, and the people I speak to have told me, that it significantly helps people in distress to open up about how they are feeling. I encourage others to do the same, but sensitively avoid talk of method, nor make light of the act, or glamorise the victim in any way.

Yours sincerely, Amy Meadows

Posted on April 26th, 2013
The Judi Meadows Memorial Fund is a restricted grant of the McPin Foundation. Charity number: 1117336
18 Chester Road, Branksome Park, Poole, Dorset BH13 6DD

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