Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai is not likely to be thanked by Mentos marketer Perfetti Van Melle for creating a series of ads showing men committing suicide in comically elaborate ways. The ads tout Mentos Marbels sour candy with the tagline "Unbearably sour" (click to enlarge images).
They are reminiscent of a German Pepsi Max ad from BBDO that was yanked in 2008 after relatives of suicide victims complained it was insenstive. (Those ads showed "one very lonely calorie" shooting himself in the head.)
The Indian ads seem especially insensitive because of the farmer suicide problem in that country. The Indian media reports as many as 200,000 farmers have killed themselves following the failure of monsoon rains and their high levels of debt. (The actual number of deaths may be lower than that, but either way, the suicide rate among India's rural poor is high.)
It is not clear whether PVM actually approved of the ads. One ad shows a man taking cyanide -- food marketers don't generally like to see their products associated with poison. Last year, PVM's Brazilian agency, Neogama/BBH, was forced to apologize after it created a Mentos ad offending fat women without its client's permission. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Indian ads.
Ad agencies sometimes publish unapproved work in order to publicize their creativity to potential new clients. Unapproved work is also sometimes published so that it can entered into advertising award shows.
Ogilvy has used the illustrator behind the Marbels ads for previous work, also for Mentos Marbels.Copyranter.