Nationwide is charging into its first Super Bowl since 2007, and not with recent frontman Peyton Manning, but with a seemingly less likely spokesperson—Mindy Kaling, the talent behind Fox's sitcom The Mindy Project.
Kaling helped develop the spot with Nationwide's lead creative agency, McKinney. (Last year, the insurance company also brought on Ogilvy & Mather, New York, to create a 2014 football season campaign around Denver Broncos quarterback Manning, who does not appear in the Super Bowl ad.)
In a newly released teaser for the Big Game spot "Invisible," Kaling decides that after years of being treated as if she was invisible—think taxis bypassing her on city streets—she might actually be invisible and has some fun with the idea. She eats food from a stranger's plate at an outdoor café, sunbathes nude in a park, helps herself to a bucket of ice cream as she strolls through a supermarket aisle and walks through an automated carwash. Against strains of the Roy Orbison song "Oh, Pretty Woman," the narrator ends the teaser with "But Mindy was actually not invisible."
"The insight here is consumers feel dissatisfied and considered invisible by companies out there," said Matt Jauchius, Nationwide's chief marketing officer. "The best advertising combines head and heart. With 'Invisible,' we're saying we understand you, America—you feel treated by brands as being invisible. That's the rational message, and for the emotional one we're using humor because it's the Super Bowl."
Jauchius says "Invisible" stays on point with the company's strategic positioning, which has previously used tags like "We Put Members First" and "Join the Nation." The humor in the Super Bowl spot is also less biting than other category rivals, a difference the CMO underscores.
The 45-second commercial is directed by Doug Liman, best known for films such as the Bourne series, Edge of Tomorrow, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Swingers. Kaling, with her strong millennial following, could help broaden the brand's appeal. Her 3.6 million Twitter followers are a bonus too.
Kaling said one idea she pitched for the commercial is a scene with her sauntering through the carwash, getting lathered by the machinery.
"My writers and I had so much fun brainstorming ideas for this ad because it was all about wish fulfillment. For instance, I have always wanted to walk through a car wash, and then I got to do it for the ad!" she said in a statement. "In this ad I was able to have fun fantasizing about all the ridiculous stuff you would do if you were invisible...and mischievous."
For more news about the brands and stars preparing buzzworthy spots, be sure to check our up-to-the-minute Super Bowl Ad Tracker.