Honda in Australia has withdrawn a commercial that shows a car plunging off a cliff, amid criticism that it makes light of suicide. Where lies the border between black humour and insensitive marketing?

Honda in Australia has withdrawn a commercial that shows a car plunging off a cliff, amid criticism that it makes light of suicide. Where lies the border between black humour and insensitive marketing?


The controversial ad shows the owner of an old Honda Accord admiring a new Honda. The old car then revs its engine and speeds over the cliff.


A clinical adviser for the Australian national depression body, beyondblue, said Honda had demonstrated gross insensitivity to depression and suicide: "Depression and suicide are major health issues for all Australians and it is not unreasonable to expect large companies to respect our attempts to reduce their impact."


In response, Honda Australia director Lindsay Smalley said the ad was a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun: "At no time was there any intention to cause anyone in the community distress".


Smalley added: "If the advertisement caused this, we apologise. We have withdrawn and will work with our advertising agency to create a revised commercial."


In South Africa, advertisers have also recently flirted with death or bodily injury in its campaigns for certain models. Are these these advertisements pushing the boundaries of good taste – or are they just cheeky and/or devastatingly effective?

  • In a Jeep Cherokee advertisement, the executor of a recently-deceased affluent man’s estate tells mourning family members what they’ve inherited. The man left generous parts of his estate to his family members, except for the young son, who inherits an uninhabitable piece of marshland. But the young man whoops with joy, because he can now go offroading in his Cherokee.

  • In Hyundai's latest advertisement, a girl in a silver swimsuit is seemingly being stalked by a shark while having a dip in a swimming pool in the middle of a desert. Not to worry, though, the shark turns out to be a friendly a Hyundai Tiburon, racing across the desert landscape. The connection? Well, Tiburon is Spanish for shark.

    Of course, the advertisers had no idea that a great white shark would kill a teenage bodyboarder at a popular surf break off Cape Town's Noordhoek beach last week, but is the association with a dangerous sea predator going to pay dividends for the Tiburon?


  • Similarly, a recent advertisement showed a young boy and his father at an Opel crash test centre. When the father, apparently a testing technician at the centre, turns his back, the young boy climbs into the rear of an Astra that is about to be crashed. Too late to do anything, the father sees the young boy and other crash test dummies in the car that smashes into a wall. The boy then emerges unscathed, inferring that the Astra has strong safety features.

  • The Astra advertisement is quite similar to a contemporary Shatterprufe commercial, in which a young football team escapes unharmed after a giant rocked clatters into the enforced windscreen of their MPV. Given the high toll of road accident deaths in South Africa, would those who had lost a young child or sibling in an accident be offended?


You tell us…