A Case for Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen Super Bowl Ad

It hadn’t happened in over two months – but there we were, together. No plans, no work, no commitments to attend a function. My wife and I both work, have two kids ages 11 and 6, and were home for the weekend. Super Bowl weekend – and nowhere to be. I remember commenting earlier that day how really nice it was to just be together and enjoy each other’s company.

The game had started, and we were all munching on our favorite snacks commenting on the funny commercials. The kids are old enough now that their comments are starting to be more meaningful (or in the six-year old’s case, more entertaining), and we had just fallen apart laughing when this ad began:

You could have heard a pin drop. “Whoa,” I softly said to my wife. “quite the buzz kill, huh?” She mumbled yes. As someone who has looked at Super Bowl ads from a marketing perspective, I thought that the decision to run such an ad was a terrible idea. The tone was all wrong: somber, depressing instead of the humorous or uplifting approach that typically dominates the evening. It’s effective, but the timing was all wrong.

I couldn’t have been the only one who felt depressed – and a quick survey of my social media feed confirmed that guess. Indeed, even Nationwide’s YouTube channel hosting this ad found more than a few of the Big Game audience agreed:

  • “I can’t believe that Nationwide would show such a depressing commercial during the Super Bowl (which generally has funny commercials). Thumbs down.”
  • “Awful commercial! That was horrible!!!What was the purpose? You’re an insurance company!!!”
  • “Horrible commercial…to sell your company on the death of children is unspeakable. There are better avenues to educate parents on keeping their children safe. I will never purchase your insurance.”
  • “Sorry but how the hell is Nationwide really going to do that? I am betting you lost business on that one – fire your advertising team.”


Let’s think about it … should they fire they’re marketing team?

First – who were they trying to reach?

My wife and I are the perfect target market or this ad, parents of small children, and we know many other parents who were watching the game last night too. In fact according to research on last year’s Super Bowl, approximately 44% of the viewers are females, roughly a 10% increase from a normal game. With viewership increasing over the year previously, one could guess that the ratings would increase yet again for this years match up between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. So, while the ad is decidedly different in tone, Nationwide had to feel relatively confident that they would reach their intended audience. I’d say they reached the intended audience.IMG_2109

Secondly – was the ad memorable?

No doubt it was! It hit my Facebook feed and was discussed for an hour, same with Twitter.

Thirdly – was this the right call, given the somber tone and almost immediate “buzz kill” nature of the ad?

Again – thinking about it a little more objectively, I would have to say yes. A visit to their website, http://www.makesafehappen.com confirms this thought with some even more sobering statistics.

Finally – will it work?

I think that depends on how Nationwide reacts, and what they do next. There is an opportunity here, but they must be very deliberate with the next step. If their intentions are true, this could be a great campaign, and a great move for the company as a whole – they could demonstrate through their actions that Nationwide is truly on our side.

In an age of cynicism and money-grabs, an age of let’s get the contract, let’s get the sale – I choose to believe that this ad was an aggressive, yet socially responsible first missive into educating parents. Perhaps they really want to show parents what they can do to make their homes safe, to help protect families and prevent the unthinkable from happening.

You can call me naïve. In return, I’ll refer you to my blog title.


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