Volkswagen Ad Didn’t Escape Probing Eyes of Mental Health Groups

Another automaker was targeted by the suicide prevention groups for having ads that suggest suicide. Europe’s largest automaker and maker of renowned Volkswagen performance parts, Volkswagen AG didn’t escape the probing eyes of the suicide prevention groups. Five mental health groups have recently demanded that Volkswagen scrap its new TV spot that shows a depressed guy on a ledge who decides not to jump off the building after he hears that Volkswagen is offering three vehicles under $17,000.

According to Keith Price, VW spokesman, the company has no plan whatsoever of scrapping the ad since “We see no reason to stop at this point. We are willing to continue the discussion. But controversy is not something VW has shied away from its marketing.”

The complaints came pouring in after General Motors has agreed to modify the ending of their Super Bowl ad that features a depressed robot that jumps off the bridge. Masterfoods USA similarly scrapped their Snicker’s ad because gay activist groups complained that the reaction of the men on the commercial is homophobic.

The Volkswagen’s commercial “Jumper” was first aired last Monday at NBC’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The ad was created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky and is also shown at YouTube. Before the ad was aired, Suicide Prevention Action Network USA has sent a letter to VW requesting for its stoppage. Another letter was sent to VW last Wednesday asking for the stoppage of the ad but this time it was from four mental health groups: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association, mental Health America and National Alliance on mental Illness.

Madison Avenue is feeling the increasing pressure from activists who are keen in checking commercial contents. And that’s not all; it seems also that interest groups actually have the power to apply pressure even on some of the world’s largest companies.

Barry Glassner, professor of sociology at the University of Southern California said, “There’s little that marketers or politicians can do if power advocacy groups coalesce against them. In some cases, they’re crucial corrective that society needs. In other cases, they go overboard.” But in this case, Glassner is in support of the advocacy groups.

Jerry Reed, executive director of Suicide Prevention Action Network USA also said, “There’s nothing entertaining about the public health tragedy of suicide.” This was seconded by Robert Gebbia, executive director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention saying, “You shouldn’t use mental illnesses as a way to sell cars.”

But according to VW spokesman Price, the automaker didn’t mean to harm anyone with its commercial and further stated “it was not designed or conceived to offend anyone” unfortunately due to forces we cannot control the whole ad thing came out offensive to some people. This was answered by crisis consultant Jonathan Bernstein saying that Volkswagen should dump the ad completely, “VW should have learned a lesson from GM. It’s not worth running an ad that’s socially controversial.”