If you follow me on Twitter, you know I love to clutter my feed with lines from funny or charmingly irksome ads. “Major medical” and “somebody left the gate open” are two that come to mind. I can just imagine the meetings between company executives and ad geniuses to come up with this stuff. But I can’t imagine how offensive and shocking commercials from Hyundai Motor Europe and Mountain Dew made it from concept to air.
Hyundai’s European division is very proud of its new car with clean exhaust emissions. And what better way to cheerlead that environmentally responsible feature than to depict a man failing to kill himself because of it. Yeah, nothing sells like death.
Meanwhile, the mad men over at Mountain Dew thought it hilarious to show a battered white woman screaming in fear during a lineup of four thuggish black men and a goat named Felicia. Oh, and the goat whispers gangster threats at her, such as, “Snitches get stitches, fool” and “I’m going to get out of here and do you up.” She runs out screaming and the detective says, “She’s just gotta Dew it.”
I love an offbeat ad, but Mountain Dew’s offering is ridiculous. The commercial in question is one in a series from Tyler, the Creator, and his edgy hip-hop group Odd Future. He told MTVNews, “Next thing I know I’m at the editing bay putting together the cuts for the commercial I shot with this f—in’ goat and it dawned on me like ‘Finally someone looked past the rape or the devil worshipping or the immaturity which is evident in the commercial.” He went on to say, “They actually gave me a chance and let me be seven years old with their product.” Translation: There was no adult supervision.
I’m not sure I can go to DEFCON 1 with Dr. Boyce Watkins, who called it “Arguably the Most Racist Commercial in History.” But the ad is so offensive that it makes the controversy over Mary J. Blige singing about chicken last year look downright silly.
Hyundai Motor Europe pulled its ad. As did PepsiCo, the parent company of Mountain Dew. And both companies apologized. But they used the weasley “if we have offended anyone” formulation to make amends. By saying “if,” Mountain Dew and Hyundai seem to pat the complainers on the head while absolving themselves of bad taste and poor judgment. What companies and their ad agencies need to learn how to say is, “We’re sorry. We made a mistake.” That’s what the folks at Mountain Dew itself did in a tweet yesterday. It doesn’t take a genius to know that’s the right thing to do.
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