Villing & Company

Selling Sad: We Analyze the Reaction to the Nationwide Commercial

The dust has settled from Super Bowl XLIX, but some questions remain for advertisers following the industry's big day. No, I'm not referring to questions about the Seattle Seahawks decision to throw instead of run at the goal line – although I will certainly be pondering that one for years to come.

I'm talking about the Super Bowl commercials, and one in particular.

Did you see the Nationwide ad with the little boy in it? Of course you did! You know, the one with the cute little boy who talks about all the things he can't do. Come to find out, that's because he is dead – a bit of a shocker. It seemed as if everyone was talking about this ad the next day. Take a look at some examples of the initial reaction on Twitter.

So why did Nationwide run this ad? On some level, Nationwide would probably say this ad was a success, because everyone was talking about it the next day. On the other hand, the company certainly received some criticism for the ad as well. Here's the statement from Nationwide on the ad:

"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."

In that sense, I would probably have to agree with Nationwide. If the ad was meaning to sell insurance, it's a disaster. No amount of insurance can keep children from dying. However, as a discussion starter, this ad did its job well. The only problem is that a great deal of the discussion surrounding the ad has been negative towards Nationwide.

So what can we take from this? Well, it is imperative to set out with goals in mind for advertising. Nationwide did just that, and time will tell if this ad sufficiently meets its goals. While it is impossible to completely control the discussion surrounding an ad, you can use your goals to direct your advertising strategies in an attempt to create a desired discussion. I'm sure this ad will be a case study that future advertisers look to again and again.

Filed Under: creative

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