In marketing we sometimes try to capture people’s attention by highlighting the benefits of using our products or services and illustrating the pitfalls of not doing so. This often works, but other times it backfires horribly.
Nationwide is on your side?
If you were paying attention to the ads during the Super Bowl on February 1, you might have seen a thoroughly depressing commercial from Nationwide Insurance, titled “Make Safe Happen.”
It starts out nicely enough, with scenes of a young boy enjoying many of childhood’s milestones. But the voiceover is mysterious; the boy tells us that he will never get to experience any of these events. Why? Because he died in an accident. This reveal comes out of nowhere and is a complete sucker punch to the gut. We are then told that “the number-one cause of childhood deaths is preventable accidents” and shown a series of images of the aftermath household accidents that presumably resulted in the tragic deaths of children. The final voiceover is that of an adult woman who assures us that “Nationwide believes in protecting what matters most: your kids.”
The main question I have is how does insurance prevent these tragedies? The purpose of insurance is to compensate you after the tragedy has happened.
The worst part about this commercial is that it implies that these accidents might have been avoided if an adult had been paying attention or had just taken basic precautions. “If only I hadn’t left Billy in the bathroom by himself!” “Why didn’t I install child locks on my cabinets?” “That flat-screen TV wasn’t even bolted down! How could I have been so stupid?” You should have Made Safe Happen, you terrible parents.
I get it. By telling this boy’s sad story and showing us these awful images and all they imply, Nationwide is trying to jar parents out of whatever complacency they might have had about keeping their kids safe.
Shaking people out of the status quo can be a great marketing tactic, one I often recommend to my clients. Only my advice leans more toward instructions like “Tell your prospects how much money they’re losing by not hiring you!” and “Show them how quickly the competition will snap up their clients if they don’t buy your stuff!” not “People are going to die if they don’t hire you. Show them how!” Nationwide’s bleak horrorshow of a commercial goes too far.
This commercial was an utter failure
I’m sure that the goal of this commercial was to get parents thinking about how they could make their homes safer for their children. Instead, this heavy-handed commercial was loosed on an unsuspecting, festive crowd who, if the comments on their YouTube video are any indication, were disgusted and offended by it.