The Year’s Bleakest Super Bowl Ad Ran in Utah, and Is Tough to Watch

Wear your seat belt

Headshot of David Griner

Every region had its own odd selection of local ads during last night's Super Bowl, but Utah surely takes the prize for most uncomfortable viewing-party moment.

In an eerily quiet and hypnotically rotating road-safety PSA, the Utah Department of Transportation depicted a dead child lying in an overturned car. A dead kid. During the Super Bowl.

"Sam looks like he's sleeping, but he's not," the narrator explains. "He's not thinking. He's not breathing. He's dead."

Unlike many of the evening's ads, this one makes a very clear point: Unbuckled adults can pose a huge risk to other passengers, including children, in the event of a crash. According to a statistic in the ad, unbuckled motorists increase the risk of injury or death to other passengers by 40 percent.

The state's Zero Fatalities microsite seems strangely pessimistic (or maybe just realistic) about the ad's impact: "If this doesn't inspire you to buckle up, we hope it at least shows you how your actions can threaten the lives of your friends and family members who are in the car with you. Seat belt use isn't just a personal decision; it affects everyone in the vehicle and others on the road."

A state spokesman admitted to the Salt Lake Tribune that the ad may be a bit dark for a festive event like the Super Bowl, but that safety officials "hope this commercial will spark a conversation and maybe inspire someone who doesn't typically buckle up to do so."

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@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."