Nationwide on the Darker Side in Super Bowl Ad

Nationwide Insurance ran into some social media backlash to its Super Bowl commercial that the company says was intended to spark a “fierce conversation” about preventing childhood deaths.

Late last night, the insurer issued a statement explaining and defending the ad.

The ad depicted a little boy talking about how he will never kiss a girl, ride a bike, fly, travel the globe, or marry. Why? Because he died from a preventable household accident.

The ad is entitled, “The Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up.”

The company was promoting its “Make Safe Happen” program about ways to increase safety at home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preventable injuries are the number one cause of death of children.

Judging from social media complaints, childhood death is apparently not a conversation people want during Super Bowl parties. Bloomberg reported that about 64 percent of the social media buzz was negative, the worst of any advertising in the Super Bowl, according to Amobee, a digital marketing platform.

However, the ad apparently worked to the extent that the company said thousands went online to its Make Safe Happen website.

Nationwide also ran a humorous ad about not treating customers as invisible; it starred actress Mindy Kaling and actor Matt Damon.

Allstate’s online insurance division, Esurance, also flirted with the darker side with an ad starring actor Bryan Cranston, know for his role as Breaking Bad’s drug dealer Walter White. Cranston appears as a pharmacist dressed in a hazmat suit discussing “pharmaceuticals” with a female customer and pretending to be a guy named Greg.

Esurance also ran an ad starring actress Lindsay Lohan as a bad driver and a young boy’s “sorta” mom. In real life, Lohan has been arrested twice for DUI, according to reports.

“A number of brands took a more serious tone this year, which might be a sound move given the current climate of the NFL, ” said Derek D. Rucker, Sandy & Morton Goldman Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies in Marketing at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

The Kellogg School did its 11th annual rankings of Super Bowl ads based on their effectiveness. It gave both Nationwide and Esurance a “C” grade. McDonald’s, Fiat, Budweiser and Coca-Cola were among those earning an “A’ grade, while Geico got a “D” and Squarespace, an “F.”

Nationwide issued this statement about the childhood death ad after the Super Bowl:

“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.”