Nationwide Tries, Fails to Explain Its Super Bowl Ad

Someone badly misread the Super Bowl audience

On the day after the Super Bowl, we continue to argue whether Tom Brady is one of history’s best quarterbacks. One question, however, has been resolved: Nationwide DEFINITELY did not anticipate the public’s reaction to what will forever be known as some variation on “The Dead Kid Ad.”

Here it is in case you missed it:

Our live verdict on the ad, via our sister site AgencySpy:

Another hot take from the guy who covers football for the New York Post:

The issue here, though, is Nationwide’s response to the response. The company realized well before the game ended that something had gone very wrong and had a press release ready to go (emphasis ours):

“Preventable injuries around the home are the leading cause of childhood deaths in America. Most people don’t know that. Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation. The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance. We want to build awareness of an issue that is near and dear to all of us—the safety and well being of our children. We knew the ad would spur a variety of reactions. In fact, thousands of people visited MakeSafeHappen.com, a new website to help educate parents and caregivers with information and resources in an effort to make their homes safer and avoid a potential injury or death. Nationwide has been working with experts for more than 60 years to make homes safer. While some did not care for the ad, we hope it served to begin a dialogue to make safe happen for children everywhere.”

For the record, not everyone hated the ad: this morning, Nationwide shared a blog post from a producer and mother who lost a young child and writes:

“It works…It made you think about the fact that children die.”

Yet even author Janet Anthoine says that the ad wasn’t appropriate for the Super Bowl. And the bold line in the press release stood out to us because it is so obviously not true: no client pays $4.5 million to “start a conversation.” Adam Tucker, president of Ogilvy New York, made the same sort of argument as his client:

Patton Oswalt, on the other hand, had the crudest interpretation of the controversy:

His valid point: Nationwide is not a counseling service; it sells insurance. And while the #MakeSafeHappen website is full of good intentions, a quick glance at YouTube voting totals shows how successfully the message went over with the general public: nationwide votes Now does anyone remember the other ad Nationwide ran during the game?

Exactly.