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Suicide is funny, says Hyundai ad

How should you hype the fact that your hatchback has breathtakingly clean emissions? Why, by making a joke about people who try to commit suicide in their cars.

Knock 'em dead.
SuperCommercialAds/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Can you laugh about suicide?

Can you laugh about suicide while you're trying to sell someone a car?

It seems that someone at one of Hyundai's ad agencies felt that selling a healthy car merited flogging a dead man. Or, at least, a man who wanted to be dead by his own hand.

The perfect opportunity, the agency must have thought, came with the Hyundai iX35. It has 100 percent water emissions -- nothing noxious, you see. That's a killer feature.

So they made an ad in which a man tries to commit suicide in his garage by the well-known method of attaching a hose to his exhaust and breathing in the fumes.

He doesn't look a happy man.

Perhaps he has money troubles. Perhaps his wife and children died in a car accident and he feels he has nothing left to live for.

He leans back in his driver's seat and prepares himself for death.

The Grim Reaper is late. Where is he? Perhaps he's stuck in traffic. Perhaps he hates himself so much that he himself has committed suicide.

In the end, the man gives up. He turns on his garage light and makes to go back to his miserable life.

Meanwhile, we are expected to chuckle at the caption: "The new ix35 with 100 percent water emissions."

Suicide? You have to laugh, don't you?

I am grateful to a post by Holly Brockwell for bringing this ad to my attention. She found herself less than moved by it, as her father committed suicide by this very method. Brockwell works in advertising.

I contacted Hyundai to ask whether the company approved this ad, made by the German agency Innocean, for airing. After all, it isn't the first time car companies have used suicide for humor.

A spokesman for Hyundai gave me a carefully worded response: "We understand that some people may have found the iX35 video offensive. We are very sorry if we have offended anyone. We have taken the video down and have no intention of using it in any of our advertising or marketing."

The phrasing of "we have taken the video down" clearly suggests that someone at Hyundai actually approved of it going up.

Ah, suicide. It just kills me.

Updated at 3:09 p.m. PT: Hyundai has issued a new statement, saying that it didn't approve the ad. The statement continues that the ad "runs counter to our values as a company and as members of the community. We are very sorry for any offense or distress the video caused. More to the point, Hyundai apologizes to those who have been personally impacted by tragedy."