A Super Bowl ad showing a quality-obsessed General Motors Corp. robot jumping off a bridge in a dream sequence after screwing up on the job is drawing criticism from a suicide prevention group.
But the world's largest automaker is defending the ad and says it has no plans to change the spot, which is making the rounds online and is featured on GM's Web site after making its broadcast debut during Sunday's big game.
The ad, called "Robot," opens with the machine in question dropping a screw while working on a GM assembly line. It's kicked out of the plant and finds work waving a "Condos for Sale" sign and holding up a speaker at a fast-food joint, all the while appearing saddened by watching shiny, new GM vehicles drive by.
As the Eric Carmen song "All By Myself" plays in the background, the despondent robot leaps off a bridge into the water below, only to wake up inside the darkened factory — waking up from its dream.
The New York-based American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says it started getting complaints the day after the ad aired and as of Thursday had fielded more than 250 e-mails or calls. It wants GM to pull the ad from its Web site, try to get it off video-sharing Web sites such as YouTube and apologize.
"It was inappropriate to use depression and suicide as a way to sell cars," said Robert Gebbia, the foundation's executive director.
The ad is the latest from the Super Bowl to come under fire. Earlier this week, a commercial for Snickers candy bars was benched after complaints that it was homophobic. And aspiring rapper Kevin Federline apologized after a restaurant trade group said it was insulted by an ad that stared him as a fast-food worker.
GM says the robot ad was designed to show the company's obsession with quality, highlighting its enhanced powertrain warranty of five years or 100,000 miles on all new light-duty vehicles starting with 2007 models. Part of the ad was filmed at GM's Lansing Grand River assembly plant, which builds Cadillacs.
"It conveys how GM employees, together with our unions, are building the best cars, trucks, SUVs and crossovers in our history. ... It is not intended to offend anyone," GM said in a statement.
The ad only aired once, but the online buzz has continued. The company didn't have details on how many times the ad had been watched on its Web site, but on YouTube alone it has drawn more than 350,000 views. And GM says it knows that all won't agree with its ad.
"Advertising during the Super Bowl brings instant critiques, both positive and negative," GM said.
But Lisamarie Miller, 39, of Palatine, Ill., said she'll never buy a GM vehicle after seeing the ad online. The member of a the Chicago-area chapter of AFSP found out about it from the foundation — and has been sharing her disgust online as well as with friends, family and co-workers.
"I was completely outraged," said Miller, whose 21-year-old brother battled depression before killing himself in 1993. "GM is not being a responsible citizen by airing something that so closely imitates life."