Nationwide Insurance sparked a nationwide backlash on Sunday, Feb. 1, when the company ran a controversial, arguably creepy, ad during Super Bowl XLIX.
Nationwide, which normally sticks to reminders that they’re on your side and marketing in the form of Julia Roberts‘ voice, took a big and what some saw as tone-deaf risk with their expensive Super Bowl spot and were forced to release a statement on the ad as a result.
The commercial, which debuted during the New England Patriots’ ultimately winning game against the Seattle Seahawks, was called “Make Safe Happen” and opened with a shot of a little kid riding a tricycle, playing with a dog, and engaging in regular childhood activities.
“I’ll never learn to ride a bike,” the young boy begins. “Or get cooties. I’ll never learn to fly… or travel the world with my best friend… and I won’t ever get married.”
While much of the video featured dreamy music and scenes, the ad takes a surprising and dark turn when the little boy says, “I couldn’t grow up because I died from an accident.”
Then leading to various grave scenes, the ad reads, “The number one cause of childhood deaths is preventable accidents. At Nationwide, we believe in protecting what matters most — your kids. Together, we can make safe happen.”
Immediately after the spot aired, viewers took to Twitter to comment with many criticizing the “morbid” spot. “That nationwide commercial was gross. Get insurance in case your kid dies in an accident? Lord,” one user wrote. “@Nationwide as usual you show lack of class,” another added. “Your dead kid commercial is tacky, and can be hurtful to those who have lost a child.”
After the less-than-positive reaction, Nationwide Insurance was forced to release a statement about the company’s intention with the “Make Safe Happen” ad, as they claimed the marketing opportunity, which set them back about $7 million, wasn’t for the purpose of selling insurance.
“Preventable injuries around the home are the leading cause of childhood deaths in America,” the statement to NBC News read. “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,” the statement continued. “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.”
Take a look at the controversial commercial above and tell Us: Did Nationwide take it too far with the somber spot?