Like many, I laughed during the Avocados from Mexico commercial as fellow eagle Doug Flutie announced the first ever draft, rolled my eyes as Kim Kardashian snapped selfies with her T-mobile phone, and was overwhelmed with happiness when the Budweiser puppy reunited with his owner. Then Nationwide dropped a bomb on all of us. I sat shocked and silenced with my mouth wide open after watching this ad. Looking around the table I was sitting at, all ten of my friends clearly felt the same way that I did. Images of the adorable little boy acknowledging that he will never get married, the open second floor window with the curtains blowing eerily in the wind, and the small blue-eyed girl staring at us over her mother’s shoulder now permanently engrained in our minds. I’m certain that after seeing the fallen TV, thousands of parents jumped up off the couch and rushed to move their small children far away from the screen. Once the initial shock wore off, thousands took to social media, expressing their sheer disgust for Nationwide and its gruesome advertisement.
Following the social media storm, Nationwide released this statement:
“Preventable injuries around the home are the leading cause of childhood deaths in America. Most people don’t know that. Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation. 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 well being of our children. We knew the ad would spur a variety of reactions. In fact, thousands of people visited MakeSafeHappen.com, a new website to help educate parents and caregivers with information and resources in an effort to make their homes safer and avoid a potential injury or death. Nationwide has been working with experts for more than 60 years to make homes safer. While some did not care for the ad, we hope it served to begin a dialogue to make safe happen for children everywhere.”
While it is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of this issue, was the most watched television show in American history the right place to inform them? And did the ad really have to be so morbid in order for people to take notice? Over the past three days, a staggering amount of content both condemning and condoning the ad has been popping up all over the web. People continue to furiously tweet at Nationwide expressing their grievances. I read one post from a father who lost a young daughter a few years back and looks forward to the Super Bowl each year as a temporary escape from this painful memory. He wrote about how hurt he was after viewing this ad and how it ruined the rest of the game for him. However, there are also many who support the commercial and Nationwide’s mission to start a conversation about child safety in homes. They have been tweeting and posting on Facebook using Nationwide’s hashtag #makesafehappen, which is now very popular on both platforms. I read a post from another father who said that he and his wife moved all of their household chemicals to a safer place and thanked Nationwide.
My original intent was to end this post either explaining why I support or do not support Nationwide airing this advertisement. However, as I read each article, blog post and tweet, choosing which side I supported became increasingly difficult. Initially, I was absolutely disgusted with the ad. All I could picture was millions of parents rushing to be with their children, hugging them tightly, doing anything in their power to remove them from harms way. How could all of the young children who saw this ad ever be convinced to take another bath again? What were parents going to say when their curious kids questioned exactly why that little boy would never learn to ride a bike? Did Nationwide ever consider how the parents of the nearly 8,000 children that died from preventable accidents last year would feel after seeing this commercial? I am sure living with this pain each day is enough punishment. They do not need to be reminded that their child is a part of that statistic during the Super Bowl. However, after doing more research and exploring Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen page, my feelings shifted a bit. The site states that 72% of parents are not aware that unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in children and only 39% of parents are concerned about home injury. The site offers parents with a variety of safety tips based on a child’s age, location within the home, and risk category (such as poisoning and water safety). Nationwide also created a mobile app so parents and caregivers can have access to this information on the go. You can join the cause and share one of the campaigns shocking statistic tiles on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest like this one:
Nationwide set out with the intent to spark a conversation, and by the powers of social media, Nationwide certainly achieved its goal. Marketing Land reported that it was one of the most talked about Super Bowl ads with over 300,000 mentions. If the saying “Any press is good press” holds true, does it matter that there were 6x more negative posts than positive? Even if you did not watch the Super Bowl or see the ad, you now know that the leading cause of death among children is preventable accidents. But was this commercial created solely to build awareness as Nationwide claimed in its press release, or did the company create the commercial with the hopes of boosting its life insurance sales? After all, Nationwide is a for-profit company. However, if this ad campaign and the tips on the site save even a handful of lives, is it all worth it? I would love to hear your thoughts. Are you on Nationwide’s side?