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Passion Communications

Nationwide drops the ball with Super Bowl Ad


This was a thrilling Super Bowl.

It was a fast-paced game, and the outcome was in the air until the Seahawks essentially gave it away in the last moments.  Katy Perry gave a great performance (complete with dancing sharks in the background), and Lenny Kravitz sang about kissing a girl and liking it.  On top of this, it almost ended in a brawl, with a player being ejected.  Despite a very memorable game, the conversation at lunchtime tomorrow is going to be about Nationwide.

With what may be the darkest commercial that we’ve ever seen, Nationwide set social media on fire.

Brands and Feelings

They are getting a lot of publicity, but that platitude about all publicity being good publicity is wrong.  Consumers’ attention is more divided than it has ever been, leaving them without the time to form complex opinions and feelings about your brand.  One of the main goals of advertising is to elicit feelings from viewers and have them associate those feelings with a brand.  Volvo = safety.  Geico = quirky.  Apple = cool, Nationwide = dead children.

In this serious misstep by Nationwide, they tried to make people realize that bad things happen in life, and you need to prepare for them.  What they succeeded in doing was creating a powerful ad that will have people associating their brand with children crushed to death for quite a while.

They knew exactly what they were doing.  The Super Bowl is practically a holiday in the United States, with large amounts of people at parties with their friends and families.  While an ad like this would be powerful even during a Lifetime movie (which always seem to be about people dying), a spot about dead kids is even more poignant when the audience is in a jovial, festive mood.  While one must doubt that they hadn’t considered this, the heavy-handed approach to getting people to visit their site about home safety wasn’t the best approach.  A much lighter approach would have still had the sobering effect that they intended, and they wouldn’t have ended up as the dead children insurance company.

The point of advertising is not to simply catch people’s attention and get them to talk; the point is to create a positive association and to get the audience to act upon it.  Benetton employed the tactic of shocking viewers in order to “get them talking”, but in the long run, their campaigns alienated many consumers, and the rest became inured to the provocative statements and images.  Today. their market share is nowhere near what it was in the 80’s and 90’s.

What do people want?

People want to feel good.  Shock advertising spots such as Nationwide’s may get people talking, but they may not like what they are saying.  They did not have a strongly established brand identity beforehand, and now they are the “Dead Kids Insurance Company.”

Nationwide really dropped the ball.