By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH
Super Bowl commercials, as of late, have become a venue to bring social issues to a wider audience. The most notable of Sunday’s ads were a Nationwide commercial centered on preventable childhood deaths and an ad focused on the horrors of domestic violence that was sponsored by the organization No More, as well as the NFL.
Social media exploded on Monday following the Super Bowl, starting a debate between those that found the commercials inappropriate for a light-hearted event and people that believed they brought up important issues.
The Nationwide commercial featured a young boy with a mop of curly hair explaining that he will never get married, never learn to fly and never grow up because he had died from a preventable accident. The commercial then gives data: the number one cause of death in young children is an accident that could have been prevented.
For some viewers, the commercial was an unwelcome experience, particularly for parents who have lost their children.
Frank Eliason, global director of customer experience at Citi bank, lost his four-year-old daughter in 2004 during a liver transplant surgery. The commercial, featuring a deceased child, brought back painful memories for Eliason.
Eliason told Business Insider that he thought Nationwide did not choose a good way to bring up the topic.
“I know Nationwide has issued a statement stating that they were hoping to start a dialogue regarding safety in the home. That may be a noble goal, but this is not the way to start a dialogue of any kind,” said Eliason.
In contrast, Lee Peterson, executive vice president of creative services at WD Partners, was interviewed by the Columbus Dispatch and said he did not see the commercial as an aim to elicit fear or grief, but rather to broadcast awareness about preventable accidents to new parents.
“It did the job of driving the message home and driving the conversation,” said Peterson. “Every other insurance ad beats around that point or deals with it with humor.”
At the end of the ad, Nationwide showed a website called makesafehappen.com, a site that gives parents safety tips to prevent potentially fatal childhood accidents.
When asked about their commercial, Nationwide defended it, stating “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.”
To address viewers who found an ad coming from an insurance company as manipulative, Nationwide stated, “The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.”
Maybe the commercial could prompt new parents to child proof their homes or be more cognizant of items that could injure their child. However, there certainly could have been better ways for Nationwide to broach that issue, without, in my opinion, playing on parents’ fears.
People can be convinced to do anything if they are afraid, especially if they want to protect their children. For Nationwide, an insurance company, to showcase a parent’s worst fear and then state “we believe in protecting what matters most” is manipulation in its cruelest form.
Nationwide further stated that they were not using the commercial to boost sales. Yet could it be argued that because the commercial is coming from an insurance company, they are specifically sending an implicit message to the parents that if they do not buy the insurance, they have less protection for their child when they need it?
I believed the commercial showed a lack of integrity and a lack of judgment on Nationwide’s part. Nationwide, even if your intentions were good I am not on your side.