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How Nationwide, and Then the Nation, Fell in Love With the World's Biggest Baby

Child's play from McKinney

"What could be more fun than making a baby car-size?"

IDEA: Attack of the 50-foot baby! Sorry, false alarm: It's a Nationwide Insurance commercial.

Ad agency McKinney came up with the eye-catching spot, one of Nationwide's cutest and most popular to date, from the most basic of insights. "People have massive passion for their cars, and think of them as their babies. It was that simple," said agency group creative director Liz Paradise. "And what could be more fun than making a baby car-size?"

That's just what they did in the spot, which shows a man lovingly washing, protecting and otherwise caring for his "baby," depicted mostly as an actual giant infant—a metaphor, it turns out, for a killer Ford Mustang.

"The strategic challenge is, how do you break through the clutter?" said Nationwide CMO Matt Jauchius. "Some of our competitors walk up to the edge of mean-spirited humor, and it's really a hard yuk and a quote. We strike a far more empathetic and authentic tone and manner. … People love their cars. We're saying, we get it, and we'll take care of it if something happens to your baby."

COPYWRITING: The scripting process involved picking fun scenes in which to show the baby—getting washed in a driveway; playing peekaboo behind a garage door; almost getting hit by a cart in a grocery-store parking lot; and in the saddest moment, bumping into a fire hydrant. (It's then that we first glimpse the Mustang.)

The visuals are just part of the story. "The baby is a metaphor, and it captures your attention, and who doesn't like babies?" said Jauchius. "But you'd better have something right after that. The copy they came up with was, 'What's precious to you is precious to us,' which really pays it off."

The full voiceover copy is: "In the Nation, we know how you feel about your car. So when coverage really counts, count on Nationwide Insurance. Because what's precious to you is precious to us. Just another way we put members first because we don't have shareholders. Join the Nation."

The final shot shows the logo, phone number and URL as a female voice sings the longtime "Nationwide is on your side" slogan.

FILMING/ART DIRECTION: Directors Jonathan and Josh Baker, aka TWiN, shot the exterior scenes first, around Los Angeles, and then filmed the baby—actually, twin baby boys—on a green screen. Then they blended the footage.

Visually, the look is meant to be relatable, from the casting to the lighting and house selection. "We're trying to put a little warmth in insurance," said Paradise. "To you, these aren't just things. There's a lot of emotion tied into them."

TALENT: Julia Roberts does the voiceover. The actor who plays the father is an everyman type. "He has a sweet, loving face and was able to give off that 'I'm in love' vibe," said Paradise. The agency looked for twins who seemed naturally good-natured. "When these fellows came in, they were just happy, happy, happy," Paradise said.

They shot the crying scene toward the end of the day when the babies were a bit tired. "It didn't take much. And then we all wanted to go and give him a big hug and a cuddle. And his mom was right there with him, so it was fine."

SOUND: The music is the 1956 track "Love Is Strange" by Mickey & Sylvia. "It just puts one more layer of fun playfulness into it," said Paradise. "And that feel-good, old-time vibe is something everybody can appreciate."

The sound design is minimal—just some ambient sound.

MEDIA: The spot has been airing nationally, and given its success, will stay on the air at least through the NFL playoffs and the Winter Olympics, said Jauchius.

THE SPOT:

CREDITS
Client: Nationwide Insurance
Campaign: Join the Nation
Spot: "Baby"

Agency: McKinney, Durham, N.C.
Chief Creative Officer: Jonathan Cude
Group Creative Director: Liz Paradise
Art Director: Owen Tingle
Copywriter: Liz Paradise, Will Chambliss
Agency Executive Producer: Naomi Newman

Production Studio: Rabbit Content
Directors: TWiN (Jonathan and Josh Baker)
Editor: Andre Betz, Bug Editorial

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