Of General Motors' three spots in Super Bowl XLI, "Robot" by Interpublic's Deutsch Los Angeles got by far the most attention. Whether it was effective, and worth it, remains a question for advertising classes and case studies. The spot makes its point about GM's obsession with quality by depicting a yellow assembly-line robot that commits suicide after it is dismissed over a small mistake. For better or worse, the robot's trip to the bridge gets a lighthearted touch, accompanied by the Eric Carmen power ballad "All by Myself." The good news: It's only a nightmare.
Time magazine TV critic James Poniewozik wasn't disturbed by the morbid premise, even coming up with another one in his review. "Fortunately, it's just a dream -- that GM 100,000-mile warranty has everyone obsessed with quality! -- and the robot can continue happily depriving human autoworkers of well-paying blue-collar jobs," he wrote. "Somewhere on the Upper West Side, Michael Moore has an aneurysm."
But a few days after the game, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said the ad was "insensitive to the tens of millions of people who have lost loved ones to suicide."
"The ad also suggests a troubling and potentially dangerous message that suicide is a logical and rational decision should one experience failure or lose their job," the foundation added, urging consumers to ask GM to pull the ad.
GM initially stood by its creative, but relented after two more days. On Feb. 9, a GM spokesman said it would remove the bridge-jumping scene.
Although it was viewed many times online, "Robot" in its original form only aired on TV once. GM had planned to run it during the Grammy Awards but replaced it because the edited version could not be ready in time.
Director: Phil Joanou. Production company: MJZ.
Chief creative officer: Eric Hirshberg. Group creative director/art director: Mike Bryce. Senior art director: Bernie O’Dowd. Senior VP/director of broadcast production: Randy Morton. Senior VP/executive producer: Steffi Binder. Senior producer: Tricia Hoover.
VFX: Sway Studio. Creative director: Mark Glaser. Executive producer: Shira Boardman. Producer: Cassandra Khavari. VFX supervisor: Richard Wardlow. Flame artists: Ben Looram, Rob Trent. Compositors: Chris Bankoff, Maciek Sokalski. 3D artists: Daniel Buck, Graham Fyffe, Rob Glazer, Rob Meyers. Rotoscoping: Meg Morris.
QUARTER AIRED: Q2