It’s been a bad month in the world of automobile advertising as two companies have had to employ crisis PR: Ford and Hyundai.
There is often a cross-over between the world of advertising and PR, with another car manufacturer, Honda in tandem with their PR agency, doing it to superb and memorable effect back in 2008.
The theme around the campaign was, ‘Difficult is worth doing,’ and the advert involved a team of skydivers leaping out of a plane and forming the word, ‘HONDA,’ in mid-air. All timed to coincide with a prime-time television advert break.
The advert received widespread coverage for its ingenuity and the fact it was a piece of ‘live’ advertising.
Advertisers often use media relations related controversy to attract column inches – Paddy Power is notorious for it, with recent incarnations seeing viewers being invited to spot the transvestites at the Cheltenham Festival and the previous year’s featured someone shooting individuals deemed ‘chavs,’ with a tranquiliser dart.
However, there is controversy, and then there is causing all-out disgust to huge swathes of society. Ford was accused of doing just this last month when its local ad-agency partners produced a picture advert of a grinning Silvio Berlusconi in the front seat of a Ford Figo, whilst three bound and gagged women lay in the back.
The advert was accused of undermining attempts to tackle violence against women in India as the country came to terms with a number of sexual attacks against women.
This week, Hyundai has apologised and pulled its ‘Pipe job,’ advert. The viral campaign featured a man attempting suicide in his garage, before being thwarted because of the car’s zero-emission engine.
After uproar in the press, the car manufacturer quickly went into reputation management mode and pulled the advert.
The lesson from these campaigns is: whilst controversy can be an extremely effective form of marketing a product, overstep the mark (and it is an extremely thin line), and a campaign can go very wrong, with crisis management coming into play.