Why The Nationwide Super Bowl Ad Haters Are Wrong

During last night’s Super Bowl Nationwide Insurance ran an ad as part of its #makesafehappen campaign. It definitely was not puppies and horses. Instead, Nationwide portrayed all the life events a child killed in a childhood accident would miss.  Here’s the ad:

Those watching the game hated it and lit up social media in response. OK, no one likes to get a big sad when they’re eating dip and watching men concuss themselves. But bravo to Nationwide for putting the issue of preventable childhood accidents front and center in a high visibility way. It’s not a contrived issue. Preventable injuries kill a lot of children, even accounting for car accidents.

Conservatives saw the ad as an extension of a soft nanny state society. But the ad wasn’t about things like letting your kids run free outside (I do that) or letting them go sledding (I do that, too), or rope swings (that, too!) or biking (yes) or climbing up things (constantly). Rather, it was about preventable accidents involving household items, burns, cleaners, tubs, and so forth.  If conservatives want government out of people’s lives they can’t then protest ads (from the private sector no less) reminding people not to be idiots or even just inattentive – especially where children are involved.

The left, meanwhile, is obsessed by guns. But while you frequently get asked if you keep a firearm in your home (by babysitting co-ops, play groups, and so forth) rarely does anyone ask if you leave deadly chemicals where toddlers can get into them or whether you have secured heavy items to the wall so they can’t topple on curious little ones. And while sharpshooting toddlers are apparently a problem, for most kids it is a household cleaner, appliance, or falling bank of shelves posing a greater risk.* Not to be too glib about it, but while you’re obsessing about keeping your children in close proximity to kale, the Nationwide ad was a good reminder to be mindful of their proximity to a lot of stuff more likely to seriously harm them than a Twinkie.

Bottom line: Accidents affecting kids are a real issue. That’s why it’s not Nationwide being soft, it’s people who can’t be distracted from a football game and funny ads about chips for a 45-second dose of real life that just might save lives.

*Firearm accidents for young people make news but are relatively rare, more so than poison, burns, suffocation, and other accidents that get less attention. Homicides involving guns are a different story.

19 Replies to “Why The Nationwide Super Bowl Ad Haters Are Wrong”

  1. The ad could’ve been about the single most important thing on the planet, but the author, et al, misses the point. The was watched for entertainment, not education. Usurping that moment doesn’t save a life, but turns the saver into a boycotted entity.

    Now, if everyone was a mindless drone and you wanted to insert valuable information or programming for the most viewers, the Superbowl is clearly the right time.

    Otherwise, while the author may be correct that viewers are “wrong,” it’s way wrong to pretend people react the way they react irrespective of how one “wants” them to react.

  2. Why the Nationwide ad was wrong: Simply put, it was not a PSA designed to “raise awareness of accidents,” its purpose was to make people think about buying Nationwide insurance. Since most people reacted negatively (and predictably) to an ad featuring a dead kid – that the product advertised doesn’t even purport to be able to save – during a football game, it was an abject failure.

  3. It seems to me that Nationwide got it’s money’s worth with the Super Bowl ad. People are talking about it. When was the last time you remembered an ad from Nationwide Insurance?

    I didn’t see the ad, but it seems to me that we have too many people running around getting offended at everything all the time. So the ad was on the edge? Who cares?

  4. The author talks about why conservatives didn’t like the ad and why liberals didn’t like the ad, but as someone who hangs out at op-ed sites I can tell you the overwhelming objection from all sides of the political spectrum is that the ad was simply out of place during the Super Bowl.
    Think of it this way: You’re at a party, laughing, joking with friends and new acquaintances and suddenly someone changes the subject to mention that know someone who’s child died in an accident. Not only will the others quickly excuse themselves from that person’s presence, but any worthwhile message will be lost. Instead, they’ll only remember that so-and-so is a jerk.
    They say that a Puritan is someone who’s afraid someone somewhere is enjoying himself. You can say I’m in the “league with the Devil,” but i think it’s okay to occasionally not be worried, afraid or feel guilty by something.

  5. Bingo Danny K. The failure would have been if no one noticed, talked, complained, debated. As the most discussed ad of the superbowl, nationwide’s ad hit its goal, just like Coke’s ad last year about diversity. Controversy in support of a cause can be effective brand building

  6. Why does everything have to be defined into right or wrong? If someone doesn’t like or “hates” the ad then that is their opinion on a television ad. If you like it then that is your opinion. There was no right or wrong here.

  7. Why try to scare parents who have never lost a child into buying Nationwide products?

    Kids get sick and die, get killed in accidents, and so on. The Grim Reaper is chasing all of us, of all ages, every second.

    We all know that. To those of us who have lost a child, this ad is patronizing at best, and offensive. The insurance is pitching making a child’s death less inconvenient.

    Why not show “death in the ghetto” rather than a nice sweet white child who’s parents bubble wrap their kids every morning?

  8. the article has the incredibly stupid, debate-stifling word ‘hater’ in the title, so I did not read it.

  9. Didn’t love the ad but think it says is very important. While everyone is watching the big game and eating dip, whats Junior doing in the kitchen with the dishwashing soap? Too bad real life gets in the way once in while.

  10. This ad resulted in spontaneous laughter in my household. It was child death porn. When they showed the crashed TV, one of my sons blurted out “All that’s missing is a pair of little legs sticking out.”

    The copywriters are probably the types that discuss divorce rates and early cancer onset statistics at weddings.

  11. Insurance is at least somewhat about loss control. The less losses Nationwide’s customers have from preventable household accidents the better for both company and customer.

    I am not sure the Superbowl is where you want to educate people about preventable household accidents, not for the reasons others are stating, but for the reason, that people probably need reminded about this more frequently than once a year. Superbowl ads to borrow a sports phrase are often “one and done”

  12. I really don’t know what Nationwide was trying to accomplish? Usually when you spend that much money you are trying to get somebody to buy your product. All I can say to that is the ad did not fit the occasion, and it just made me mad at Nationwide. I wouldn’t consider buying their insurance now, and if I had them I’d think about changing to another company. If I’m going to be depressed during the Super Bowl with stories of dead children I’d rather it was a charity raising money for children stricken with cancer, or starving in Africa rather than a arrogant, for profit, insurance company that decided to foist its sense of social consciousness on me and my family during an event that is supposed to be exciting and fun. The normal scolds and doom and gloomers can celebrate that Nationwide stuck a dead child in our faces in the middle of the Super Bowl, but I didn’t appreciate it.

  13. I hated the commercial because the beginning sucked in my 7 and 10 year old daughters and 12 year old son with first part and then terrified them. How, and more importantly, why should I have to explain this to my 7 year old? It was an important topic in a completely inappropriate venue. It will go down as the worst super bowl ad ever.

  14. So when you’re watching a football game and you get the call that a loved one died, do you ignore and hate it, too?

  15. So, you hate conservatives. Noted. Let me explain to you why it was a terrible ad. It was the Super Bowl. I didn’t want my daughter eating anything under the sink and made sure she knew it, BUT I DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT IT ON HER BIRTHDAY OR CHRISTMAS!

  16. So, you hate conservatives. Noted. I’m not a conservative but I hated the commercial and you just don’t get it. Let me explain this way. I didn’t want my daughter to eat anything from under the seat and made sure she knew it – BUT I DIDN’T DO IT ON CHRISTMAS OR HER BIRTHDAY!!!!

  17. It was the Super Bowl. I didn’t want my daughter eating anything under the sink and made sure she knew it, BUT I DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT IT ON HER BIRTHDAY OR CHRISTMAS!

  18. Fine. Now say all the thoughtful things you just said in this column….

    …in 60 seconds.

    In a crowded bar.


    Nationwide and their ad agency utterly forgot their forum. format and audience.

  19. Nationwide presented the wrong message at the wrong time to the wrong audience. And they are being flamed for it, justifiably. Maybe they’ve learned their lesson, but I doubt it. Nationwide just wants to make money off of people’s fear of accidents. I would argue, though, that children who survive childhood survive because (a.) they were allowed to experiment and learn, or (b.) they were raised in a rubber-lined box by helicopter parents. Learning on your own teaches you better lessons, even though some of those lessons may kill you. But being overly “protected” from yourself during your childhood makes it more likely that you will die from your stupidity as an adult.

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