One commercial to ruin them all
This year’s Super Bowl is one to remember; with the unfortunate scuffle at the end of the game to Katy Perry’s dancing sharks, it certainly can’t be described as boring. Yet one part of the event particularly stood out to me, and that is the Nationwide boy commercial.
Nationwide, an insurance company known for its jingle “Nationwide is on your side,” apparently allowed one of its latest advertisements to stray from its traditional jangle into the territory of the morbid. In fact, it seems like they hired Mindy Kaling to do a different, happier commercial to balance out the darker tone of the other.
The commercial in question can be described as “depressing.” In it, a young boy seemingly plays in a montage of fantasy activities. Innocent at first, the video slowly grows ominous as the boy describes all the activities that he won’t be doing in life. Then it’s revealed: the boy is dead, killed by some household accident.
The advertisement was created to bring to light that preventable accidents are the leading cause of death for children under 12 in the US. It features a link to makesafehappen.com, which is a site dedicated to spreading information about home safety, and also displays their app.
Public response to the commercial has been polarizing. On social media, thousands argued over #makesafehappen in debates ranging from the alleged insensitivity of the ad to the lack of mention of gun violence, to some applause and praise of the ads themselves.
In response to some of the negative backlash, Nationwide released a statement Sunday night to explain the reasoning behind the placement. “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 wellbeing of our children.”
A lot of the criticism stems from the fact that this is the Super Bowl, arguably the largest television event of the entire year. It is where the most expensive ads are aired, and commercials are typically “happy and fun” to celebrate the game. Anything that could even remotely offend people are pulled.
But the commercial did what it was supposed to do: generate publicity for the company and its philanthropic endeavor. However, that doesn’t mean that the stunt itself wasn’t incredibly cheap. Using a child’s death in media is traditionally an easy way to manipulate emotions of sadness. The deliberate placement during the Super Bowl was obviously a ploy to generate controversy, and thus publicity.
Still, a lot of the focus and discussion is centered on the boldness and general morbidity of the ad itself instead of the topic that they were attempting to promote. Despite the statement describing that this particular commercial was created to raise discussion and not sell insurance, many continue to post on social media detailing their plan to avoid the company in the future.
Despite this being the most far reaching method to promote their endeavor, perhaps a more tasteful approach would have been more beneficial. As of writing this, the #makesafehappen tag on twitter has been filled with negative reactions to the commercial for the past 30 minutes.
So unfortunately, while their heart is in the right place, their customers will likely be at Statefarm for the foreseeable future.