Nationwide insurance TM Advertising

When you’ve got Fabio, it’s hard to let him go. That is how TM Advertising in Irving, Texas, found themselves shooting Nationwide Insurance’s first Super Bowl ad with the male model in Venice last month.

The creative team, led by creative directors Wade Alger and Jay Russell, was shooting Fabio for a Nationwide billboard with a romance-cover theme at the beginning of December when copywriter Ryan Carroll suggested they shoot a TV spot—as long as they had the star.

The team took the idea to the client, and “they ended up buying that and three others. It happened really fast,” Russell recalls. Marketing executives at Nationwide thought the idea was so strong, they slated it for the Super Bowl.

“I loved it immediately. Even my boss [Kathy Ricord, evp, chief marketing officer] loved it immediately, and she never does,” says Steven Schreibman, vp, advertising and brand management at the client.

The ad shows Fabio and a date on a gondola in what appears to be a shampoo ad—but there’s a twist at the end, the creatives say. They won’t reveal the final scene, but sources say Fabio goes under a bridge and emerges an old man, in order to illustrate the company’s “Life comes at you fast” tagline.

It was shot Jan. 11 in Venice in 35-degree weather as creatives huddled in tents to try to stay warm. Veteran commercial director Kinka Usher of House of Usher speaks Italian fluently, and was nearly the only one able to converse with the all-Italian crew.

Not only did creatives have to deal with cold temperatures and language barriers, the light was limited from around 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Shooting additional scenes of Fabio against a green screen in Los Angeles two weeks ago went smoother.

Though the short production schedule caused stress, it had added benefits as well, creatives say. “Not having the benefit of time on our side, we were able to make decisions quicker and smarter,” Alger says. “We couldn’t overthink things.”