What was Nationwide Thinking?

There is one day of the year that people look forward to commercials rather than accepting them as a depressing reality, and that day is the super bowl.  Being that the super bowl is the highest viewed television event of the year in America, Commercial spots are incredibly expensive.  This year a 30-second spot cost $4.5 million.  Every year, companies chose to begin their new campaigns with a super bowl ad, and there is a certain level of competition between them to see who can create the funniest ad that still generates brand recognition.  So the question is, what was Nationwide thinking when they aired an ad featuring a child who had died in an accident?

nationwideThe ad, which is centered on a deceased child listing the things he will never do because of his untimely death, was without a doubt very emotional, but emotion doesn’t necessarily translate to positive brand recognition.  Here are several reasons why Nationwide using this ad may have been the second worst play call of the super bowl this year: the setting was not appropriate, the product does not align with the message, and the manner in which it was displayed was not respectful given the sensitivity of the subject matter.

Nationwide came out after the super bowl and defended the ad, stating that they just wanted to start a conversation about safety and prevention of accidents for our kids.  Perhaps the conversation should occur, but I assert that the super bowl was not the correct avenue for that.  It is all but an American holiday centered on the ideals of gathering with friends and family for an evening of fun.  People have come to expect comedic relief from the advertisements during the event, and when the Nationwide ad starts, the viewer has no idea it will end on so morbid a note.

Nationwide sells insurance, which primarily with rectifying accidents.  While part of the industry is based around preventing claims, this is not the common association.  The intention of this advertisement was to try to spread awareness of their new initiative to help educate people on child safety, but many took the message of this ad as, “Buy our insurance, or your kid may die.”  Social media was exploding with comments such as this immediately after the ad.

The message was not respectful to those who have been personally affected by the loss of a child.  For example, the ad highlights a tub over flowing with water, signifying the danger of children drowning.  This could have a very negative impact on many viewers if they have gone through a similar tragedy in their personal lives.

While the majority of social media comments about the ad were overwhelmingly negative, the ad did not go without some positive support.  Many people polled by USA Today said that the ad was a wakeup call to them because of the fact that they have small children.  In Nationwide’s statement on February 2nd, they said the ad was about starting a conversation, not selling insurance, and it is undeniable that this ad accomplished that goal.  Only time will tell how this affects the consumer’s impression of Nationwide.

Ryan Gill



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