Ride-hailing start-up Grab has withdrawn an advertisement in Indonesia after the video’s portrayal of a woman covered in blood sparked an online furor and drew comparisons with a zombie movie.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 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 voiceover 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.
However, when the woman refuses to use the drivers not working for Grab, the app appears on her mobile phone and the blood disappears.
The 45-second ad ends with her walking toward a motorbike taxi driven by a man working for Grab.
However, netizens were shocked at the graphic ad and the video was pulled late on 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,” @Imanakbar08 said.
User @AroonP said: “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 said in a statement.
The controversy over the video came as the firm announced it had raised US$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.
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