Anyone watching Super Bowl XLIX surely experienced what I did. During a commercial break early in the game, a black cloud suddenly appeared, the air rushed out of the room, and everyone feel silent. The reason? Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company decided that this would be the perfect time to remind us that our kids might die from a preventable accident, like a drowning in a bathtub or having a 70” television fall on top of them.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of public service announcements during our national sports competitions. Tonight’s Always #LikeAGirl ad, for example, shared an important message wrapped in a feel-good video. Bravo!
I’m sure that the folks at Nationwide had good intentions—kid safety is important, and certainly we all want to prevent avoidable accidents. However, a message about dead kids simply is NOT what the nation wants while we’re covered in face paint, downing beer and nachos as we cheer on our favorite football teams.
This commercial shows a clear lack of sensitively to consumers’ emotional states—and what’s appropriate (and what’s not) in certain contexts. It’s shocking to me that the execs at Nationwide and its ad agency weren’t able to recognize—and avoid—the tone deafness of such an ad placement.
Don’t believe that this ad missed the mark? Check out the harsh criticism on Twitter.
Interestingly, there was one news outlet that seemed to support the Nationwide ad. At 7:27pm tonight (Eastern Time, I presume, and soon after the commercial aired), FastCo.CREATE contributor Jeff Beer published an article entitled, “NATIONWIDE’S CHILD SAFETY AWARENESS AD WAS SUPPOSED TO HARSH YOUR SUPER BOWL BUZZ.”
The FastCo article was clearly written before the Super Bowl ad appeared, as it’s got several quotes from Matt Jauchius, Nationwide’s chief marketing officer. It also links to another article by Beer about Nationwide’s kid safety campaign written on January 22.
FastCo’s article from tonight backs Nationwide’s intentional bummer: “You know what people don’t expect to think about during the Super Bowl? A dead kid talking from beyond the grave.”
You’re right, FastCo. We don’t expect that. But we don’t want it, either.