Really, Nationwide?

Did anyone else notice the not-so-funny tone of Super Bowl commercials this year? It seems like all of the advertising agencies got together and agreed to make viewers cry instead of laugh. Most notably, the Nationwide “Make Safe Happen” commercial. The ad features a little boy saying all of the things he couldn’t do, like learn to ride a bike or get “cooties” from girls. In the middle of all of the “awww”s from viewers, the little boy states, “I couldn’t grow up, because I died…” The viewers “awww”s quickly turned to shock and everyone shared a stunned expression similar to Richard Sherman’s.

The commercial has a PSA-type message about preventing accidents in the home. There is footage of an overflowing bathtub, a fallen TV, and spilled detergent. This Nationwide commercial has a very different mood than the one aired earlier in the night that starred comedian/writer, Mindy Kaling. Viewers took to Twitter to share their opinions of the commercial.

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Clearly this “Make Safe Happen” commercial did not settle well with viewers. Nationwide responded with a statement on February 1st regarding the negative feedback.

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The statement claims that the commercial was meant to start a conversation about making homes safer for children. It did start a conversation, but a different one than desired. People are talking about how depressing the commercial is and why Nationwide took it upon themselves to try to start this particular conversation. The statement says they aren’t trying to sell insurance, but Nationwide is an insurance company.

So what is the actual goal of this advertisement? Why spend so much money for a primetime commercial spot that doesn’t positively benefit the company? What do you think Nationwide actually expected to happen after airing this commercial?

-Kelli Hall, Mallory Brayman, Morgan McCleaf

32 thoughts on “Really, Nationwide?

  1. There is a saying that “any press is good press” and I believe Nationwide aired this commercial with this mindset. Commercials for the Superbowl are almost as equally important as the Puppybowl, and airing an ad that is so heart-renching and powerful during a time of celebration is a radical move. Although Nationwide’s intentions may have been thoughtful, the chosen release date was the at the wrong place and the wrong time. But considering the amounts of views it would receive during the Superbowl, it may have been worth the risk to air. If it aired on any other day, this commercial would be just like the UNICEF or SPCA commercials, depressing but a need to know topic. I believe that the chosen time slot was necessary to reach the biggest audience, but the topic was too heavy for the Superbowl.

  2. I felt like most of the commercials during the Superbowl this year made similar mistakes like Nationwide did with this. Their intentions were great, wanting to spread awareness and spark conversation about an issue but there is an appropriate time and place for it. I think the other commercial with Mindy is the more appropriate one to air during the Superbowl, I love the Mindy project and I think she is hilarious. It provided a laugh as opposed to all the other serious and emotional commercials. Paying the ridiculous amount of money for a commercial spot during the Superbowl should be about trying to promote your company and sell more of your product/services. I love that Nationwide is trying to bring awareness about an issue many people are not aware of but I just think they could have chosen a better time and place. Great job though, I enjoyed reading this blog post and thought you had some really great points about the topic!

  3. I agree with Emily that there was a certain level of awareness that “any press is good press”. Even further than that, I don’t know if this was necessarily a mistake. This could show itself to be a quite brilliant move on Nationwide’s part. They clearly state the goal of the ad was to “spark discussion” and that is exactly what it is doing and on a national scale. What a better time to make yourself known than a Superbowl commercial slot. Whether people are hating on it or praising it, this commercial is being talked about and will be remembered. The seriousness and heaviness of a lot of these commercials may have been a little too much being stacked on top of one another, but the importance of the message still stands. If this “PSA” is talking about a fact that wasn’t known and needs to be, good on them for bringing the tough stuff into the light. I, for one, had no idea this was such a prevalent issue. I definitely like what this post highlighted concerning the question, why did Nationwide take this upon themselves? A question I don’t know if I can answer other than genuinely hoping, since they have their foot in the door of household happenings, they felt the strong desire to change a problem for the better. I wonder why it is that people are so genuinely upset about a commercial that talks about a true and heartbreaking problem. Would we rather live blissfully ignorant? Is it really that upsetting that Nationwide used a heavy commercial packed full of pathos to get us to pay attention?
    I would like to think this was a good move on the part of Nationwide getting a conversation started, even if that meant some negative press for the moment.

  4. Yes, the Super Bowl commercials were more in the depressing format than usual. I think that Nation Wide was just making a statement on how they care about children because parents are going to be the ones that would be purchasing the insurance, so it was just a way to reach out to them. I feel that this commercial is one that sticks with you and it may not have been perceived the way Nation Wide wanted it to be, but it still being talked about and their brand is being talked about. Which is what they wanted. I think that this was a sad and emotional commercial but I think it got the brands point across and is sticking with the audience.

  5. I too noticed the darker undertone of Superbowl commercials this year and I think you make some valid points. It was a buzz kill to watch the Nation Wide commercial because it forced us to think about things we tend to push aside. No one wants to think about children dying in horrible accidents or domestic violence. I think that is the point of commercials like these. Also the domestic violence commercial hit home for me. Even though there was no physical violence being seen, the details of the house and creepy calm of the phone call was enough to make my skin crawl. Is it what I want to think about while I am drinking beer and eating wings? No, but is it important to think about? Yes! Did it create a discussion? You’re damn right it did and that is what it was intended to do. After the initial shock of having my mood drop for a moment, I was actually quite pleased that issues such as those were being distributed in such a blunt way. Great topic to write about and discuss!

  6. This commercial was completely bizarre to me as well. I couldn’t help but think that Nationwide was trying to guilt trip parents into buying a new policy for their families. I understand the importance of raising awareness, but to do it this way while millions of viewers tune in to watch a football game wasn’t the best way to go. I remember my first reaction, looking up at the television and noting how cute the little boy is and then BAM! he is now dead. There are now numerous memes on social network that are making fun of this commercial, some say “I would have run it with Lynch, but I died” and then a picture of the kid’s face… was this really what you wanted Nationwide? Raising awareness doesn’t have to scare people, the ice bucket challenges this past summer certainly didn’t scare anyone and they did a better job for that cause than any commercial did. I may be bitter because if I don’t like a team playing in the Superbowl, then I just watch the commercials mostly, and the commercials this year were just kind of depressing. Thanks for including Nationwide’s statement, I haven’t seen that yet, and it was interesting to see their comment after the public’s reaction.

  7. I think I am one of the few that is actually impressed that Nationwide aired this commercial during the Superbowl. I think they took a risk by seizing the opportunity to reach out to a huge audience, in order to get a very strong message across. This commercial made an impact on people watching the Superbowl everywhere, and that was the point. Yes, Nationwide could just be using this to receive press. However, I read the statement that they released about why they chose to air it during the Superbowl and I commend them for it. I think most people did not know that most childhood deaths are from home-related accidents — I know I didn’t. And I think it’s extremely important that we acknowledge this, especially future parents. While it wasn’t the norm to air such a depressing commercial, taking the risk to reach a larger audience was a bold, smart move for Nationwide.

  8. I think they possibly intended on using scare tactics to make people buy their insurance. If it was effective or not, I’m not sure. We’d have to look at the number of sales completed since the airing of the commercial. Has there been a spike? The topic of children’s death is a very serious topic that not many people would like to be slapped in the face with while having a good time rooting for their preferred team at the Super Bowl. People’s negative reactions to the commercials, are still reactions though. They did start a conversation, but is it a good one? People are spending more time talking about the fact that Nationwide did this commercial than the fact that children are dying because of accidents. I think you’re right. There is a conversation that clearly needs to be had, but the timing and place of a subject as serious as this has to be just right. The Super Bowl just was not it.

  9. I think that this commercial achieved its’ intended effect and brought awareness to an issue that most people don’t consider often. However, I’m not sure if it was the right occasion for that kind of advertisement. It doesn’t really match the mood of the event, or the typical commercials everyone normally looks forward to during the Super Bowl. Some people even say they enjoy the commericals more than the game itself. So unfortunately, this commercial didn’t fall in that category. While I understand that Nationwide wanted to get their message out to a big audience (and Super Bowl Sunday is definitely a good time to get a message out through commercial advertising), I think it was too depressing for this advertising spot. I do think it was a little weird that Nationwide said they weren’t trying to “sell insurance,” when that is usually the driving force behind an advertisment of a company. I respect them for getting the word out, but I think it could have gotten more of the respect it deserved on a different occasion. Great article!

  10. I actually did not get a chance to see this particular ad but had seen the controversy over it. Exactly what Danielle said in the comment above, for companies that sell across the country such as Nationwide, any press is “good press”. However, when people watch the Super Bowl, they want to enjoy their experience and of course a vital part of that experience is the infamous commercials. I personally got emotional from the ad and understand its message, however it made me in a sad mood which made me upset. I understand where they were trying to go with the commercial, but not during the biggest game of the year. If they wanted to raise awareness to the new site they could have presented it in a much more positive manner. Also, their comment on not doing it for their company is a complete lie. To even get 15 seconds of commercial time during this event costs millions and millions of dollars to promote a specific brand or company. Loved this post and the issues discussed!

  11. While much of the country is criticizing Nationwide for this commercial, I believe it brought the EXACT kind of attention the company was hoping for. As one of the leading sellers of insurance on the market, Nationwide is obviously aware of the public and how they may react to situations or advertisements – good and bad. This is to say that the company knew there would be negative feedback regarding this add. Millions of people’s happy evening with family, food, and sports were interrupted with a shockingly dark and all-too-real commercial about the premature death of children. And while some argue Nationwide did not want the response they got, I disagree completely. The company wanted people to be frustrated and disturbed by the commercial because the reality of the matter is that the issue it covered is REAL and TRAGIC. Regardless if the public liked or disliked the commercial, they felt something towards it; fear and anxiety, more likely than not. Because of this, Nationwide’s website has gotten more attention than before, and people are realizing the severity of accident-caused childhood death. I think Nationwide created a revolutionary ad and should be proud of the awareness they have raised as an organization, even if the result was not more customers purchasing their insurance.

  12. I believe that Nationwide did go into this commercial with good intentions with the intent on letting the public know that accidents at home are on the rise for causing child deaths. I also think however, that they wanted to use this story to sell its insurance. What better way then to educate the public and to get people to want to buy insurance? By getting a story that uses a lot of pathos to pull at the heartstrings.

    I don’t think their commercial was a bad per say though. I can think of other commercials that use a similar technique to sell their product. But perhaps the timing was a little off. The millions of people watching the super bowl, some for the football and others just for the crazy and funny commercials, all wouldn’t want to be put in a bad mood after having a lot of excitement.

    I think Nationwide took the chance of reaching a large audience and getting its name out there, and remembered. Because even now, people are still talking about Nationwide and remembering it. So perhaps their goal was in a way achieved,

  13. I personally really enjoyed the ad. Yes, it was sad and looked at a horrible event but even those things we hate to think about need to be looked on. The Super Bowl is one of the most watched televised events in the United States. If you want to shed light on a growing tragedy to the most people at one time, a Super Bowl commercial is the way to go. A lot of people want to turn a blind eye to topics like accidental deaths of children but as it states, the death toll is rising and people need to be aware that they can help stop it. Though the Super Bowl is known for its humorous commercials, I think this commercial did just what it intended, it got people talking. If this commercial hadn’t been so dramatic or taken the risk to even be made, not many people would be discussing accidental deaths of children. You never hear people complaining about the ASPCA commercials which shed light on animal abuse yet when humans are involved everyone freaks out. I think this commercial did exactly what they wanted it to do and it got people talking. I will agree it was an extremely sad commercial but without it, I would have never known the toll of accidentally deaths of children is rising.

  14. I definitely think Nationwide took a risk by airing such an edgy commercial. I understand their desire to “start a conversation” about preventable childhood accidents, but I do not think that the Superbowl was the best venue to air their this type of content. I do not think Nationwide did a good job of considering their audience. Nationwide should have put more thought into this before spending millions of dollars only to have their work mocked and made into memes. However, their goal in starting a conversion was accomplished. With that being said, I it hard to determine if this commercial was a flop. I am interested to see how many parents took this message to heart.

  15. When watching this commercial with my friends during the super bowl we all decided that this was the most disturbing commercial we had ever seen. We felt it was in bad taste as the super bowl is a night that should be light in humor for the most part and because Nationwide is an insurance company, not a prevention of accidental child deaths non-profit organization. I thought it was inappropriate for Nationwide to try to bring up something serious like unintentional child deaths to try to convince you to buy their insurance.

  16. I think the point behind the commercial was to simply show awareness. Accidents as depicted in the Nationwide commercial are happening far too often and Nationwide clearly thought it was important enough to make the commercial and place it in a prime time spot. It got people talking regardless of whether the people talking liked it or not.

    I think that the reaction that Nationwide got from the aired commercial is exactly what they wanted. I don’t believe when making the commercial the writers, film producers or company thought “Wow, the public is going to LOVE this.” No, they knew what they were doing and congrats to them for making their vision come to life. Everyone is aware of these accidents and maybe now we’ll slowly see a decrease in these cases.

    It’s an interesting commercial to look at and I think you all did a good job talking about it.

  17. I feel the Nationwide commercial was released to the wrong audience. During the Superbowl people are enjoying themselves, drinking and eating with their friends and laughing. The last thing people want to see during a break in what was an amazing game is a short story about a child dying. Also the way the commercial was so blatant and abrupt with its message did not translate well to the people watching the super bowl. Instead of inciting a conversation about safety, they caused a big debate over commercials, which i do not believe was their intention. I did like the commercial, i just feel as if a different crowd of people would have enjoyed it more for its artistic value and its attempt to transmit a message such as the people who watch the Oscars or the Golden Globes. Overall this was a great blog past. Consistently made great points about the commercial throughout.

  18. I am like many people who watch the Super Bowl for the commercials…the football, not so much. I definitely agree with you on the fact that the commercials were a little, disheartening so to speak but I did get the message that the companies, in particular Nationwide, were trying to say. I do think that the issues that they were addressing in the different commercials could have been better addressed in a little more of a positive light. I wonder though, do the companies feel that this population of people will only listen and pay attention when something, in this case a kid never growing up, bad is or could happen. It is bad to ask, but you can’t help but wonder. I really enjoyed your topic and I am glad someone addressed this issue.

  19. Responding to your question of what Nationwide expected to happen– I think they expected for people to take this commercial as a warning. They were attempting to gain more traffic for the “makesafehappen” website, but in a way that could also sell insurance. While the warning was very effective, it triggered a much harsher reaction than what the company was expecting. I think the mistake they made was sending the commercial to the wrong audience. As already stated, normally the tone of Superbowl commercials is funny or witty. The audience that was watching was expecting these type of commercials and I don’t believe that Nationwide was thinking about audience expectations when they created this commercial. However, their press statement does state that the commercial did increase the traffic to the “makesafehappen” website; so in a way the commercial was a effective. Personally, I agree with you that the commercial was not placed at the right time or TV show, but if it helped the organization, then it did the job it was intended to do.

  20. I thought it was extremely odd and off-putting that Nationwide decided to go in this direction during the Super Bowl. I cannot think of a worse time for people who are hanging out with friends, enjoying some drinks, and relaxing to receive such a dark message. There is a time and place for a commercial like this, and the Super Bowl was not it.

    However, it was very intriguing to see how so many companies attempted to distance themselves from humor to get their message across. I’m confused as to why this is. The Super Bowl is a time to laugh, relax, and wonder at the spectacle of these athletes. For Nationwide to view this as a time to bring the audience crashing back to reality is completely beyond me.

    I very much enjoyed the blog post, and couldn’t agree more that Nationwide started the wrong conversation. I will have to make sure that I frequent the post more often!

  21. I completely agree that Nationwides commercial was a bit over the top. I can say that at the Super Bowl party I was at everyone had the same reaction as Richard Sherman. I do think that sad commercials definitely stick with people and leave people talking about it but thats exactly why Nationwide did it. I think its wrong that Nationwide said they used this commercial because it is something that needs to be discussed because it is a huge issue. I feel like they used it because they knew it would have a jaw-dropping affect that would leave Nationwide in peoples mouths. They knew that people would say/ask, “Did you see that Nationwide commercial?” or “OMG that Nationwide commercial was intense!”. They knew this would allow more people to say Nationwide and get there name out there and it did. They achieved what they wanted.

  22. Nationwide was feeling bold when they paid to air this commercial during a celebratory, national sporting event. Of course, that was probably the point, to stand out among the sea of beer and car commercials.
    I immediately picked up on their use of pathos here. As I was shaking off the lingering gloom that followed the initial viewing, I realized that was probably Nationwide’s goal. They wanted to leave an impression that you would hopefully reflect back on as you decided on an insurance policy.
    However, it wasn’t until the very end of the commercial that I realized their true target audience was actually parents/families!
    “At Nationwide, we believe in protecting what matters most: your kids.”
    It was just one sentence but it summed up the entire commercial, adding in a subtle plug for themselves. Just like that, parents everywhere are switching to insurance! (They hope.)
    It was a downer but it stood out and started a conversation on something important while simultaneously starting a conversation about themselves. I say, they did what they probably set out to do.

  23. I thought Nationwide did an acceptable job on airing the “Make Safe Happen” commercial during the Super Bowl. When I was watching the commercial, I thought to myself “Aw, this is so cute! A little boy and his black lab is his best friend! Just like me and my lab!” However, I had the same reaction to most Americans when the little boy said he could not go up because he died. It startled me but it did make me think about “how many kids do die from accidents in the home that could have been preventive?” However, I do not have children now, I think in the future I will remember this specific Nationwide commercial. Whenever I do need to purchase insurance for my family and I this would think of Nationwide’s commercial; which eventually would benefit the company in the future. I think Nationwide did expect people to be shocked after airing this commercial and it made people think of their own insurance as well as any preventive measures parents can take for their children. I thought this commercial from an advertising perspective was unique, intense and brilliant because it made people question themselves and what kind of insurance they have.

  24. Nationwide did get one thing out it, and that was a lot of press. If they are going by the model “any press is good press”, then they have succeeded. But in today’s Superbowl commercial era, it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out. Being funny or awkward (like watching GoDaddy commercials with the family) isn’t enough. With all the social media, any commercial that stands out will stand out even more, so it’s becoming even more important to “win” the commercial competition.

  25. I loved the Mindy Kaling advertisement! To be honest I didn’t realize that these two ads were both run by Nationwide at first. By the time Nationwide made itself known in the “Make Safe Happen” advertisement, I was in so much shock that I didn’t even see the Nationwide logo at the end. Still thinking about this several minutes later I had to stop and think, “Wait, what was that commercial for?” While I completely understand spreading awareness about child safety, I don’t think the way to spread it is through a commercial. It would be different if it was spread in a PSA. In fact, the whole situation would be different if they had just taken out the Nationwide aspect. Using the many viewers of the Super Bowl is a great idea to raise awareness but doing that in conjunction with a company that sells something cheapens it. For example, I loved the Anti-Domestic Violence commercial that involved a woman calling 911 and pretending that they were a pizza delivery company in order to not raise suspicion. The commercial was dark but very powerful, and in the same way I loved the ad it also made me want to cry. However if Nationwide had paired that with an advertisement about itself, everyone would be disgusted. The most that the Anti-Domestic Violence commercial “advertises” is to go to the website to learn more about domestic violence. There is a difference in exploiting a problem and spreading awareness.

  26. I completely agree with the overall reaction to Nationwide’s depressing commercial from the Superbowl. I do not think it was necessary for them to come at the audience with such a sad tone, especially during such an exciting game. I understand that Nationwide was only trying to create awareness for the safety of children in homes, but I believe they could have approached it in a much lighter tone and still create awareness.

  27. Personally, I find Nationwide’s more serious tone a fantastic idea. While showing such a sad commercial during the Superbowl wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it was a great advertising move. The Superbowl is the biggest broadcast on TV and what better time to air a controversial commercial? But when I go to think about the type of controversy it held, it honestly didn’t. Nationwide is a type of insurance company that actually cares for its customers and when they saw an alarming statistic on death’s in the home that could have been prevented, they took action. While it got people talking, the only problem they in turn had with it was that it was “sad” but in my opinion I think it was just a type of selfish inconvenience for the viewer. They are in their only little world filled with adrenaline and hype because the best football game of the year is on and then suddenly forced into a reality that caused unhappiness they end up not liking it. Nationwide’s goal for this commercial, as with any commercial produced was to get people talking and to make it memorable and that’s exactly what they accomplished.

  28. While this commercial was utterly shocking being aired in the super bowl, I applaud Nationwide for taking the risk they did and believe it’s benefits far outweigh the negatives. This definitely fell right in line with the previous mentioned theme of most superbowl commercials this year and i agree with the blunt approach and sharp turn it took. Accidents in the home that threaten the lives of children are very common and happen far too frequently. While it may be the case that nationwide would profit from those who will now purchase a policy, they are ultimately acknowledging a huge issue that should be take more seriously. The only problem I would have with this commercial is if I was enlightened upon the fact that maybe that is the only insurance policy that is creating no profit for them and they need to make this more aware so that the can further increase sells within a not so profitable market.
    I believe their brand values were portrayed within this commercial and with such a serious topic. They relate well to the public even with their blunt approach because let’s face it, most people care about the children. Nationwide has seemingly given this a lot of thought and I believe they created it in hope of creating those same thoughts in a very large audience. I also believe it was well written and captured a similar reaction from everyone who witnessed the commercialls. Sometimes to uphold your brand values it is necessary to take risks and I think the risk they took, being the air date, was appropriate because this issue should be in everyones mind.
    I completely admire Nationwide for caring enough to not care about the bad press about such an important issue. While this may be true for me I also know that I saw that commercial, felt that heart wrenching feeling and yet the next day the commercial was not one I discussed with my friends and mainly because I didn’t not remember, due to the festivities. So if that was the case for me and problably so many other who loves beer, wings and football than did it really reach the amount of people it was trying to and if it didn’t and no Super Bowl commercial does than why not just let us be what it is seemingly designed for which is entertainment to the fullest.

  29. I agree that this commercial was definitely shown at the wrong time. When people watch the Super Bowl, one of the biggest things they look forward to most are the commercials. I know for me personally, I was excited to watch the humorous commercials and couldn’t wait to see how much better they would be this year (although last year was hard to top). Nationwide’s commercial, along with a few others, were definitely a little too serious and depressing. However, everyone remembers the commercial. This is what advertisers are looking for. They have gotten a lot of press (whether good or bad) about this commercial and definitely got their point across. The message wasn’t confusing or lost while trying to be funny. It is a serious matter (a little extreme, but has been some people’s reality), and Nationwide is showing another reason people need insurance rather than the typical funny car commercials. I do agree that the commercial should’ve been shown at another time, but Nationwide did get the attention they deserved for the money they spent. Also, when all of this dies down and people hear about Nationwide, their mind will trigger those sad emotions we felt while watching that commercial and we will be more prone to remembering and choosing that insurance company, all because it caused us to feel something and connected with us on an emotional level.

  30. Even though Nation Wide stated they their purpose was not to sell insurance, I believe there was a subconsciously effort in selling insurance. However, they wanted to take a different angle on it. They wanted to express the importance of safety at home, and why it is important to have insurance. If you have insurance then situations like the would depicted in the commercial would have a higher rate of not happening. I feel as if they wanted to provoke an emotional appeal than a typical Nation Wide commercial they every one just sings a long with the tune. They wanted to make Nation Wide real, important, and serious. People are not use to commercials like this from Nation Wide, therefore a different reaction and conversation sparked.

  31. I was shocked upon viewing the commercial and it gave me a negative impression of Nationwide. They took advantage of the captive audience by sharing their message with advertising during the Super Bowl, but I think they should have put more consideration into the mood of the television event.

    The Super Bowl is about competition, pride, and celebration.

    The ad put an unnecessary damper on the mood.

    There is a place and time for PSAs. I make the argument that this setting would not be the Super Bowl.

    Even if the claim that Nationwide is making, that they weren’t intending to sell but rather to only educate, is true – they should have chosen a better setting in which audiences would be receptive to their message.

  32. I agree with many of the others. Thinks were really out of place when it comes to Superbowl commercials. They were not like the previous years. The saying that there is a time and place for everything is beyond the truth. The brands that were trying to send a story were not really bonding the two together at the appropriate times to really get it jumping off.

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