Sunday, February 18, 2007

GM to cut robot's jump from TV ad

Saturday, February 10, 2007
GM to cut robot's jump from TV ad
Automaker heeds outcry from advocacy groups to remove suicidal scene from Super Bowl commercial.
Eric Morath / The Detroit News

General Motors Corp. will retool its lonely robot ad after all.

The automaker on Friday bowed to pressure from advocacy groups to remove suicide references from the ad, and took the spot off its Web site,, and its YouTube channel.

The commercial, which hasn't run on television since the Super Bowl, will remain sidelined until it's re-edited, GM spokesman John McDonald said. The company had planned to run the spot again during Sunday's Grammy Awards, but will replace it with another ad.

Intended to highlight GM's commitment to quality, the ad features a cute yellow robot that drops a bolt while working the factory line.

The robot is fired for the mistake and left to seek service jobs such as being a speaker at a fast-food drive-in. In despair, the robot jumps off a bridge, then wakes up and realizes it was all a dream as an announcer says, "Everyone at GM is obsessed with quality."

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on Wednesday demanded that GM get rid of the ad, calling it insensitive to those with mental illness and suicidal depression. As late as Thursday, GM officials said they would not alter the spot, and it remained a centerpiece of its Web site.

After a discussion with the foundation Friday morning, the automaker changed course.

"We're going to edit the ad to take the robot falling off the bridge scene out," McDonald said. "We listened to the (foundation) and responded to their concerns."

The foundation's executive director, Robert Gebbia, applauded GM's decision, saying he hopes to talk with the company in the future about raising awareness of mental illness and suicide.

"I am pleased they reached out to us," he said. "I'm glad that there has been more discussion about the issues around suicide and hope other companies will follow in GM's leadership."

Copies of the ad still populate YouTube, but GM officials note it's impossible to control that content. The GM-authorized version of the ad had been viewed by more than 319,000 times on YouTube before it was pulled Friday afternoon

A carefully re-edited version of the ad could let GM capitalize on the controversy, said Dave Regan, a Michigan State University advertising instructor.

Newspapers and broadcast reports nationwide referenced the ad in stories.

"They could swing the needle in their direction," he said, "with smart re-editing that shows they listen to the public."

Regan said GM should consider also reworking a portion of the ad where the robot takes service jobs such as selling condos and hamburgers.

He said those portions could be insulting to workers who lost their jobs at GM and other automakers, and may have been forced to sell their homes.

GM's McDonald said he didn't anticipate those scenes being removed.

You can reach Eric Morath at (313) 222-2504 or

© Copyright 2007 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.


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