Nationwide Hates Children; or, The Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up

It was just about a year ago that I found myself writing in defense of a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl (You remember the Coke commercial that seemed hell-bent on the destruction of America?). This year, it seems to be no different.

First off I feel the need to remind everyone that I don’t watch, follow, or care all that much about sports much less the yearly madness of the Super Bowl. (For the record, anyone I spoke to in Washington in January, I’m going to go ahead and say I totally called the Patriots win so there’s that!) Unlike last year I did quickly tune in to catch Katy Perry’s performance as I’m a big fan of hers.

Also, much like last year, I was unaware of any commercial-related controversy until well after they had all aired. It would seemed that the world was won over by the Budweiser commercial (I still haven’t seen it but I know puppies are involved) and the exact opposite feelings were directed towards Nationwide Insurance Company.

Let’s take a look:

The comments section on YouTube told me all I needed to know about how the online world reacted to the 45 second spot. Many called out Nationwide for being monsters and destroying a happy day. Others demanded apologies and that Nationwide pull the commercial from the internet as well as future airings.

Nationwide took to the internet and posted the following in defense of their ad:

“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 anywhere.”

Nationwide,  I applaud your intent.

I personally feel that this commercial was exactly what was needed to help spark the conversation on this topic. I love conversations. I have spent the past six years, travelling the country sparking conversations. It’s my job!

I will admit that, while I don’t have kids, the commercial hit me hard and was certainly a bit of a downer as I began my morning. The loss of child is something I hope no parents has to experience. Having spent much of the past six years working in bullying prevention, I have see the pain the loss of a young person brings to families and their communities.

It is not a topic to be taken lightly.

However, it is a topic that is a reality with over 9,000 child deaths attributed each year to preventable, household accidents.

“Preventable injuries around the home are the leading cause of childhood deaths in America. Most people don’t know that.”

Scrolling through the hundreds of comments on Nationwide’s YouTube channel it would seem that many are in agreement with this sentiment. Many commentators on the video felt that the message was a good one but the venue was a poor choice. The Super Bowl is a time of celebration. A time for humor. A time for half-time shows and massive brawls in the final 18 seconds of a game. A time when 114.5 million people are tuned in for commercials, I mean a football game.

An audience of 114.5 million people.

I have to admit, that there was no better time to deliver this important message.  Anyone who doesn’t see that needs to take a step back.

” The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.”

NationwideI watched the commercial a number of times before deciding to comment on the situation. Over the course of the 45 second commercial, not once was an attempt made to get me to purchase insurance from Nationwide. In fact, aside from their logo appearing at the end of the ad, I wouldn’t have had a clue that Nationwide was involved. To be honest, I didn’t see the logo until my third watch.

I focused in on the web site each time the commercial ended.

MakeSafeHappen.com

I have a bit of a mantra that I use constantly when working with both parents and students.

Take a look at the bigger picture.

This is certainly something that is not happening in the case of Nationwide versus the world. After my first viewing of the ad this morning I immediately went to the advertised website and was quite taken by the message put forward. What I saw was that great time and effort went into putting together both wonderful and important information that families may not have been aware of.

I decided to informally poll a number of friends with children who I knew were watching the Super Bowl on a number of factors surrounding the commercial. The group polled came from a wide variety of backgrounds which made for some interesting results though in the end the reactions from my friends mirrored that of many found elsewhere online.

Unlike the random YouTube comments, however, I have a bit more information on the audience demographics.

The one common thread that came from both my informal poll and the random social media comments is that no one felt the urge to go buy insurance. Which is good because it wasn’t the intent of the commercial at all. They also commented that they were too enraged to even think about visiting the website. Many felt that the site was simply going to entice them to purchase life insurance for their children.

This explains why out of the 114.5 million people watching on Super Bowl Sunday only “thousands of people visited MakeSafeHappen.com…”

Out of the 11 people who responded to my request for reaction, only one took the time to visit the MakeSafeHappen.com after viewing the commercial. It’s worth noting that this was a mother of three who works in marketing. She commented, “The marketer in me insisted on visiting the site to see how they could spin it to make me change insurance carriers. In truth, the site isn’t half bad if the parents who need these common sense lessons would actually click through ”

At the end of the day I feel that Nationwide made a bold move in an effort to open the eyes of millions around the country, perhaps around the world.  While it angered many it might inspire others to look twice while backing the car down the driveway. To be mindful of the child in the bathtub. To install locks on the cabinets containing dangerous chemicals.  The commercial was meant to be a wakeup call and for many it was.

Clearly a message that is greatly needed. In today’s news alone, two infant children were left locked in a car, unattended while their parents were at a wine tasting. (Read the story here).

So yes- Nationwide’s commercial was a downer on what is typically an upbeat and crazy day. But it was a commercial that may actually save lives.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

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