Nationwide Chose The Wrong Side

Nationwide feature

By John Graham


At this point the buzz has died down from the Super Bowl and has since been replaced with Kanye West rants at the Grammy’s. So it’s the perfect time to assess the #EpicFail of the now infamous Nationwide commercial. While many have gone hard at the commercial based on the content, I and plenty of my #Millennial cohort have a completely different reason for being less than thrilled with the marketing approach Nationwide opted to use.

Instead of taking those precious and ungodly expensive moments to push the value of having life insurance just in case you need it Nationwide decided to go all 6th Sense on us. They touch on some of the monumental life events the child would be missing out on because he died in an accident. Meanwhile, he passively engages in the lives of others as a spectator. Then they cut to a fact about how accidents are the leading cause of death among children overlaid on various household accident scenes. Last comes the plug for the website, which by the way is actually very well done and extremely informative, but I’ll get to that in a sec. The scene ends and now you’re back to the big game.

Is it just me or did they fail to actually push the value of why you as a parent should trust Nationwide to help keep your kids safe? This was an example of juxtaposition that looked great on paper but failed miserably in reality. Bringing a completely unrelated and non-relevant subject to an audience at the wrong time on the right platform with the wrong approach… That my friends is the signature move of the old guard thinking of a C-Level marketing exec.

But this is America and the Super Bowl is the biggest marketing stage there is. The budget had to be used didn’t it? So why not throw in some CG cooties, and some Life of Pi scale turbulent sailing scenes, and then hit you with a Spielbergesqe flight scene? If only Nationwide CMO Matt Jauchius talked to a Millennial before spending so much money…

Nationwide meme

“It’s singular in its size, the pinnacle of live TV, and so many people watching to actually see the commercials, so it’s a great place to re-invigorate this cause for us, launch the campaign and make more than 100 million aware of the issue and the app.” ~ Matt Jauchius

The tell in the above quote is who was at the center of Matt’s marketing decision? Nationwide of course. “So it’s a great place to re-invigorate this cause for us.” comes before “Make more than 100 million aware of the issue.” Talk about juxtaposition… Had the focal point of the marketing been the valuable information that Nationwide wants to share with parents I can almost guarantee that their website would have crashed due to the flood of actively engaged and interested visitors. Instead their YouTube video now has 6.5 million views because your co-worker said you have to see this train wreck of an ad.  Case in point, more people are talking about how terrible the adScreen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.25.39 AM was rather than how helpful Nationwide has been in keeping kids safe. Sidebar: The website for Make Safe Happen is actually extremely well done and has a very good UX that delivers the information that I as a parent would actively engage with had it been delivered in a more thoughtful manner.


Instead of going all the way down the primrose path they could have struck the right emotional chords and gotten their point across more effectively had they simply used the accident scenes on their own. Provide the imagery and allow the imagination to fill in the blanks. What parent wouldn’t consider putting locks on the kitchen sink cupboards, or ensure that the TV is secured from falling over after seeing such horrific imagery? Sometimes the things unspoken are the loudest statements made.


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