Warning: The video above and image further down this page may be disturbing to some people.
INDONESIA - Grab’s new ad campaign in Indonesia has received a less-than-positive reaction from local netizens, with many calling it disrespectful and gory.
Update, 9 am, 21 September: Grab has replaced the original video and issued a statement regarding the ad (we've preserved the original video above, the cleaned up version is embedded below).
"We had hoped for our ‘Choose Safety’ online video to be thought-provoking—to encourage people to be more concerned about the safety and service levels of their day-to-day motorcycle taxi rides," said Mediko Azwar, marketing director. "There have been mixed reactions to the video and we thank everyone for sharing their feedback. On hindsight, we acknowledge that the graphics may have been grim and disturbing. We hope that those who have watched the ‘Choose Safety’ video will understand that our intention was not to shock, but to reinforce the consequences of accepting lower safety standards."
The 49-second video, which has been shared by Grab on social media, features a young woman leaving school to head home. As she walks towards the road, she progressively changes, getting bloodier and bloodier with each step, until she looks like a walking zombie.
The voiceover narrates from the perspective of her father [translated from Indonesian]:
This is Dinda, my daughter. She is 20 years old and she wishes to be a singer. She will have to make a decision soon. If she chooses wrong, she will not be a singer. She will not go and meet her mates. Her mom. Or me.
But Dinda chose correctly.
Is the rider trained properly?
Are the documents complete?
Is the vehicle properly maintained?
With Grab, the answer is always YES...because you are not replaceable.
'Dinda' reverts back to her full and healthy self when she makes the 'right' choice. Thankfully, the 15-second variant does not feature such goriness.
Since the video’s posting, reactions have been mixed, but many called the ad scary, disgusting and gory with a few saying that it has motivated them to uninstall the app.
Elya Eusoff, regional digital PR lead from Bonsey Jayden, who has been following the reactions online, noted that Grab should have been more considerate to their culture and age of netizens viewing the ad.
Jakarta-based tech blogger and commentator Aulia Masna noted in a series of tweets that while the company believes Indonesia's ride hailing industry is worth US$15 billion annually and is a crucial market for the company—its actions and claims in this latest advertising push just don’t hold up.
Masna used to run AdDiction, the advertising blog owned by the Jakarta chapter of the Association of Indonesian Advertising Companies.
“The ad violates a number of articles in the Indonesian Advertising Ethics guidelines including claim of guarantee, demeaning to competition, spreading fear and lack of data when comparing services,” he said, speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific via Twitter DM.
Grab's latest Indonesian ad says it's much safer to to use their service than with conventional drivers. Evidence doesn't support it. pic.twitter.com/s0fm6Tycrs— Aulia Masna (@aulia) September 20, 2016
Masna also wryly pointed out that Grab’s own record hasn’t been perfect, pointing to an incident last year when a Grab Bike driver in Jakarta died after speeding and hitting a curb, while the passenger suffered injuries.
This controversy comes on what should have been a good day for Grab: The company just raised US$750 million in fresh capital, led by SoftBank, at a US$3 billion valuation, with Indonesia stated as a priority market.
But it is also not Grab’s first stumble, in October last year the brand got into trouble over its #GrabitBeatit campaign to promote breast cancer awareness after finding itself in the midst of a Twitter storm over its treatment of such a sensitive topic.
Users were quick to voice their displeasure at receiving a notification from GrabCar, GrabTaxi’s private vehicle booking service, stating: ‘LOVE BOOBS? So does cancer’.