As we try to build an ethical culture, it doesn’t help to have amoral corporations employing ethics-challenged advertising flacks to send America toxic messages about honesty and trust. Hyundai, in its campaign for the 2013 Santa Fe, represents family members keeping secrets from each other and parents enlisting their children as accomplices in lies as funny, normal and cute. “Don’t tell mom,” a father orders, in the midst of a movie that will give his young children nightmares, and other misadventures (including one incident of father-led vandalism.). “Don’t tell Dad,” says Mom, after taking her son parasailing. I’m presuming she’ll have to tell him when her son breaks his neck on their next flight.
The ad models damaging conduct and miserable parenting, while presenting trust as an obstacle to be manipulated rather than a value to be nourished. It celebrates lying and conspiracy as legitimate and useful tools of accountability avoidance. This may well be how Hyundai executives treat their spouses and rear their kids, as well as the practice of the soulless Madison Ave. geniuses helping them pedal this cultural poison. For the rest of us, however, these are commercials that should be vanquished as quickly and with as much prejudice as a racist screed or pornography, if children are in viewing range. Insidious messages like this can stick, and the casual acceptance of deception and betrayals of those who trust is a habit to be avoided more than smoking or procrastination.
Hyundai is behaving like an irresponsible corporate citizen, not to mention an ethics corrupter, by running such a vile ad. Tell Mom and Dad not to let their kids see it.