JAKARTA — Ride-hailing start-up Grab has withdrawn an advertisement in Indonesia after the video’s portrayal of a woman covered in blood sparked an online furore and drew comparisons with a zombie movie.
Singapore-based Grab is considered the leading ride-hailing platform in Southeast Asia and plans to expand its presence in densely populated Indonesia.
The ad, released online as part of a campaign to highlight Grab’s safety standards, shows the young woman becoming progressively blood-spattered as she walks down a street, with a voice-over saying she is about to make a “big decision.”
By the time she reaches a group of motorbike taxi drivers — a common form of transport in Indonesia’s traffic-choked cities — she is dripping with gore.
But when the woman refuses to use the drivers not working for Grab, the app appears on her phone and the blood disappears.
The 45-second ad ends with her walking towards a motorbike taxi driven by a man working for Grab.
Netizens were shocked at the graphic ad, however, and the video was pulled late Tuesday. It was replaced on Grab Indonesia’s YouTube channel with a 15-second, blood-free clip.
The original sparked a storm on Twitter, with many saying it looked more like a trailer for a zombie movie than part of a safety campaign.
“Why are you making a scary ad? Is it for zombies or for a service,” said @Imanakbar08.
User @AroonP added: “So Grab campaigns for #ChooseSafety with an ad full of blood.”
Mediko Azwar, marketing director for Grab Indonesia, said the firm had hoped the video would be “thought-provoking” but added: “We acknowledge that the graphics may have been grim and disturbing.”
“Our intention was not to shock, but to reinforce the consequences of accepting lower safety standards,” he added in a statement.
The controversy over the video came as the firm announced it had raised $750 million from investors to expand in burgeoning Southeast Asian markets, where it aims to build its lead over US-based rival Uber.
In addition to Indonesia — one of Grab’s key markets — the firm also operates in Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Its core product platform includes private cars, motorbikes and taxi-hailing services. — AFP