Ride-hailing firm Grab pulls gory Indonesia ad

Grab has withdrawn an advertisement in Indonesia after the video's portrayal of a woman covered in blood caused an uproar online.
Grab has withdrawn an advertisement in Indonesia after the video's portrayal of a woman covered in blood caused an uproar online. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE
Grab has withdrawn an advertisement in Indonesia after the video's portrayal of a woman covered in blood caused an uproar online.
Grab has withdrawn an advertisement in Indonesia after the video's portrayal of a woman covered in blood caused an uproar online. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (AFP) - Ride-hailing start-up Grab has withdrawn an advertisement in Indonesia after the video's portrayal of a woman covered in blood sparked an online furore and drew comparisons with a zombie movie.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 South-east 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 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 blood.

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 (Sept 20). 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."

Mr 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."

He added in a statement: "Our intention was not to shock, but to reinforce the consequences of accepting lower safety standards." 

The controversy over the video came as the firm announced it had raised US$750 million (S$952.9 million) from investors to expand in burgeoning South-east 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.