The Super Bowl Ad That Went Way Too Far

I like watching the Super Bowl, I do, but admittedly, one of my favorite things about the big game are the commercials that air in between. This year, we saw an adorable lost puppy find his way home, a girl power campaign that proved the phrase “like a girl” is a good thing, and “dad ads” celebrating fatherhood. Among them though was a deeply disturbing ad from Nationwide that felt, not only manipulative and exploitative, but wrong.

If you haven’t seen it yet, a little boy, with shaggy hair and a black Labrador Retriever, talks about all of the things he’s bummed that he’ll never be able to do. He’ll never learn to ride a bike or fly, he’ll never kiss a girl or get married, and he’ll never get to go on adventures with his loyal canine sidekick. There is imaginative whimsy in what he’s describing, with cooties that taunt him, animated robots, and a rocket pack attached to his back as he soars through the air. We think we’re witnessing a little boy who can’t fathom ever being old enough to experience these things, or how he could ever be interested in them.

And then, we get hit with a thud to the chest. As the adorable kid tells us, the reason why he’ll never be able to do these things is because…he died in an accident. He’s standing there, clearly a ghost, telling us that he died. Ugh, god, no, I thought, my whole body shuddering at how upsetting this was. We’re then told that the number one cause of death in children is preventable accidents, and that Nationwide Insurance cares about protecting what matters most: our kids.

But after seeing that shock value ad, I think what Nationwide Insurance might really care about most is getting you to talk about Nationwide Insurance, not the safety of your children. The commercial ends with a link to Make Safe Happen, which actually includes a lot of really helpful, useful information on preventing accidents in the home. Unfortunately though, their ad missed the mark and, many of us just shut the whole thing out. Viewers know when they’re being manipulated, and that’s what it felt like — that they were using tragedy to get our attention. It was so intense, such a surprising punch to the gut, that I felt like I had been taken advantage of.

In fact, a lot of people took issue with the campaign, which by the way, is called “The Boy That Couldn’t Grow Up,” and voiced their upset on social media. Nationwide responded to their critics by saying in a statement, “The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.”

I’m sorry, but the sole reason that you spend millions of dollars on a 30-second TV spot is, ultimately, to sell insurance. I believe that they did have good intentions, that they really do want to start a conversation about making your home safer. But with such a controversial ad, it seems like they really want to start a conversation about Nationwide Insurance as well. Oh, look, I’m doing it right now.

All that being said, we as parents do care about protecting our kids. The company at least got that right. And the site is really worth checking out; it’s full of risks you may have never even considered, and it provides information you need to keep your home safe. I’m happy this resource is out there, but I really wish the company had gone about it in a more tasteful way.

What do you think about the ad?

Photo: You Tube