Nationwide: Dead Kid Super Bowl Ad Was Meant to 'Start a Conversation'

Nationwide Dead Kid Commercial Super Bowl Video Controversy

In the wake of the deafening chorus of WTF?!s heard ’round the Internet on Super Bowl Sunday, Nationwide has defended its commercial in which a young boy laments the life events he will miss out on, because he is already dead.

In stark comparison to the first spot the insurer ran during the Big Game — in which TV star Mindy Kaling comedically makes the most of her “invisible” status — “Boy Can’t Grow” was derided en masse as being way dark, depressing and, well, an odd way to sell insurance, with the premise that potentially fatal injuries around the home should be avoided.

In a statement issued to NBC News, Nationwide says the spot in question was not meant to shill policies but “start a conversation” and build awareness. Read the explanation in full, then tell us if the advertiser’s message is now more clear:

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, 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 everywhere.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. eviloverlore says:

    Not. Super Bowl. Material.

    • says:

      Exactly! This is a topic worth bringing to people’s attention but a 30 second spot that features a dead child during the super bowl isn’t the way to go about it.

      • Rook says:

        I like how this commercial aired but people complained over go daddy’s puppy ad and it got pulled.

        • Paul says:

          GoDaddy pulled it. They never meant to air that spot; they do that every year. It’s back-door advertising based on the premise that there is no bad publicity.

  2. Tim says:

    Whoever made that call from Nationwide is gonna be looking for a new job

    • Seren says:

      Sadly at least people are talking about it, while many ads were overlooked, so maybe they would consider it a success? I wouldn’t – it doesn’t exactly make me want to go buy their insurance.

      • Gaia says:

        People are talking about it for the wrong reasons, and as you said, it sure as hell doesn’t inspire people to go buy insurance at Nationwide, and in fact quite the opposite due to the sour taste it left in their mouths.

  3. will says:

    I get it but I don’t think it was appropriate for the Super Bowl.

    • james says:

      I get the message and I think any time is the right time for this type of message. I mean it is the most watched sporting event of the year so the message will spread quicker this way. However, I don’t think an insurance company is the right type of company to spread the message. It makes them seem like they are spreading the message to instill fear into parents so they will buy nationwide insurance. I commend them on trying to spread such an important message but maybe next time let someone else do it or do it in a way that makes it seem less profitable.

      • mary says:

        I know I am in the minority, but here goes: I am glad they did it. In general people don’t watch commercials, they barely heed warnings. I understand it’s easy to think they were out for “selling” insurance. Here in Milwaukee there’s an increasing amount of children dying because people don’t pay attention to the very things that were shown in the commercial. Co-sleeping deaths, we can’t seem to push this subject enough yet it keeps happening. Kids injured or killed because doors were left unlocked. I know it was supposed to be party time on the tv, but again when should they have shown this ad? the times we fast forward or go to the bathroom? Not to mention they were not the only PSA ad.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I get what they were going for and it definitely sparked conversation. However, very little of that conversation has actually been about accident prevention. Mission fail.

  5. MA says:

    I think it’s a TV commercial and isn’t worthy of such scrutiny.

  6. It’s one of those moments where you’re hit with a bunch of conflicting reactions. “The hell was that doing airing during the Super Bowl?!” “Well, it’s something to keep in mind, being aware of children around the home and preventing accidents.” “It was a dick move by the insurance company to sell insurance!” “They actually are insisting it’s not about insurance.” “Well that’s kind of disingenuous when they’re associating their brand with this…”

    What it comes down to is, it’s one of the most watched events of the year, and a great time to get your message out. Inappropriate or not (which is definitely going to vary from person to person), at least it wasn’t another blatant attempt to use vapid sex appeal to make us piss away our money playing some crappy ‘free’ game and actually had substance. Also it wasn’t a monkey hanging itself…

  7. Kay says:

    Talk about a buzz kill!! This is a truly important message but delivered at a very inappropriate time.

    • Timmah says:

      As were most of the Super Bowl commercials yesterday.

    • DreamRose311 says:

      When exactly would be a better time… Anything else would have a fraction of the viewership, with a decent portion of that viewership fast forwarding through commercials with their DVR.

      They should’ve framed the commercial differently, but I like that they put the message out there.

  8. Sarah says:

    If they were trying to start a conversation and not sell insurance then they should’ve left their name off the commercial.

    Fear mongering is disgusting and they should be ashamed of themselves.

  9. MeekMick says:

    Hey Nationwide (and every other corporation in the world) Stop moralizing and just sell your products. My kids, My KIDS even looked at us and said WTH was that???

  10. Here’s the thing, people. The kid isn’t really dead. Calm down.

  11. A says:

    Interesting argument about whether it was appropriate to deliver an important message during the Super Bowl. I would argue one of the strongest ads of the night was the one about domestic violence. Was it inappropriate to deliver that message during the Super Bowl?

    I don’t have an issue with the ad for trying to “start a conversation.” My issue is the way it was done: by preying on emotions. The domestic violence ad played on emotions too, but basically said, “if you’re scared, we’re here to help.” The Nationwide ad simply said, “Be scared.”

    • Lizo says:

      And the NFL is having quite the year with all the domestic violence issues, so it was in their best interest to air an ad that said ‘hey, we’re trying to change’. Don’t know if there’s a lot of child deaths in the NFL.

  12. Sandra Templeton says:

    I got it! The commercial was on target. Kids die every year from all kinds of accidents, accidents that were preventable.

  13. On the most important day of the year for television advertising, this is the ad that everyone is talking about. Sounds like a perfectly executed plan to me.

  14. Karen says:

    If you have ever had this happen to someone you know, take this commercial to heart. In our case the bathtub event ended happily. Don’t put down an important message that millions of people will see.

    • KCatty says:

      This. My SIL posted a pic on FB of her fully dressed 1 year old sitting in a bathtub full of water with a sh!$eating grin on his face. She had run the bath, not closed the bathroom door, and then had gone into the kitchen as she was working on dinner. Nephew goes in the bathroom and ends up in the tub.

      She, friends and family found this hilarious. I shuddered to think how easily the outcome could have been far more tragic.

      Not FB worthy regardless.

  15. thisismenow says:

    People get offended and upset over the most trivial things in the world.

  16. CAM says:

    Sticking fingers in ears and repeating “lalalalalala” as Nationwide tries to defend it’s mistake. Not a Superbowl commercial.

  17. Et Al says:

    It didn’t start a conversation, but it stated some pretty hilarious memes.

  18. dman6015 says:

    Well, here’s a conversation starter: #BoycottNationwide

  19. Phil says:

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

    I have a hard time believing a company would pay 4.5 million dollars to start a conversation and not to sell their product…

  20. d4h8a15r16m23a42 says:

    It needed the jingle, Nationwide your child died.

  21. KSM says:

    I mean, I think we all got it. It just was inappropriate for the Super Bowl. But, since this was the most depressing Super Bowl of all time with all of the sad commercials, it kind of fit in.

  22. Babybop says:

    I understand what they were going for, but it was just ridiculous. I burst out laughing because I was so confused as to why this was running during the Super Bowl.

  23. Mimi says:

    Maybe it actually saved a life! Some parent watching the Super Bowl, seeing the ad and suddenly thinking: “Hey, where is little Tommy?” While little Tommy was almost drowning in the unsupervised pool…

  24. syndi says:

    “Yeah, make sure your home is accident-proof – mommy and daddy – because we love your kids (and we don’t want to have to pay out on homeowners insurance if something happens to them in the home).”, say’s Nationwide’s marketing department.

  25. Kay says:

    I think it would have read better to me if it just…wasn’t an insurance commercial. If they want to sponsor/launch a separate preventable accident awareness campaign, that’s fantastic, but connecting it to the premise that what Nationwide does by selling insurance is mainly aimed at protecting children seemed odd. Like they were grasping at straws to fit the two concepts together.

  26. Dj says:

    It did start a conversation, but not the ones they wanted which makes it a bad ad. Plus the fact they had this ready to go response says they knew what reaction would be. In all the conversation I’ve had about it and heard I’ve yet to hear one about prevention.

  27. Drew says:

    I think that people need to grow up. Everyone who is saying that this wasn’t appropriate for the Super Bowl… when would it be more appropriate? During Arrow? Because that’s when we want to discuss kids dying? Maybe the really popular show where grown men are doing everything in their power to end up paralyzed or brain damaged is a good time to discuss safety. Maybe people need to be reminded that this stuff can creep up on you, even when you don’t think it’s a good time for a TV to fall on a kid or for them to drown in the pool.

    • Abby says:

      That’s the thing, though…Red State America makes mountains out of every little molehill. I just tune out conservative values and the world is full of a lot less complaining.

      • Drew says:

        That comment was completely random and made no sense, but okay.

        • Abby says:

          Right, sorry, I forgot for a second you’re a conservative, so of course you’d deflect the truth I’m spouting in that first comment. My bad. Oh well, we both know conservative America destroyed the careers of Janet Jackson, Sinead O’Connor, and the Dixie Chicks over extremely insignificant things, and one of them had their career destroyed at the Super Bowl because somehow gridiron football and pyro shows are ‘family programming’, so we both know I’m making sense. You called it, people need to calm down, but the problem is that people get their knickers twisted and feed on mob mentality until someone is on the breadline over one overpriced commercial.

  28. betty says:

    Completely inappropriate for a Super Bowl Commercial. That was all I could think of the rest night.

  29. Abby says:

    The whole ‘dead all along’ twist was so much better in The Sixth Sense.

  30. Tom says:

    I mean…………..we knew who showed up at the end of the Snickers ad ahead of time, but THAT was not leaked early? It’s like they knew this would come or something.

  31. Bdub says:

    So sad to think that poor kid missed the Super Bowl halftime show featuring Katie Perry! What a waste.

  32. Pat says:

    I would love to meet the 50 advertising executives who sat around the table and voted yes to this commercial for the Super Bowl and for Nationwide to listen and agree with them to go ahead with this. I said it in my morning post on the best and worst commercials that this might have been fine as a general commercial that truly does bring awareness for preventable accidents that a child might have, but this was not a Super Bowl AD. Wrong place and wrong time.

    • Kevan says:

      “this might have been fine as a general commercial that truly does bring awareness for preventable accidents that a child might have,”

      Sooo, it’s fine to you that the commercial truly does bring awareness, as you say. And it aired on the most watched night of the TV calendar, thus MAXIMIZING awareness…yet you condemn the choice to air it at that time? Why is it not appropriate for the Super Bowl? If you say it’s fine to bring awareness to this issue, and they did that, what’s wrong with their choice?

      Your logic puzzles me.

  33. Davey Elmer says:

    I didn’t see the ad, but there are more tasteful ways to “start a conversation” than the hypothetical death of a child. Nationwide deserves the blowback from this, and it’s sad that they already had a pre-written response to the whole situation.

    If you’re sure something is going to get a lot of blowback and therefore have to prepare a response to said blowback, you probably shouldn’t be doing the thing that is going to cause said blowback.

    • mary says:

      You should at least watch “said” ad before commenting. It has to do with everyday situations that bring about the death of children everyday. And these situations could have been prevented if people paid attention.

  34. Kevan says:

    Missed the ad last night. Watched it just now. I fail to see what the fuss is about. They made a point, it wasn’t “depressing,” and it was just a commercial. So what?

  35. Rt says:

    What a bunch of garbage. An ad on the super bowl cost how many millions of dollars? Also, just to produce the commercial a few more million. Sorry, this company isn’t a non profit and you don’t spend that kind of money to “start a conversation”. More like, oh that was a mistake, let’s try and make it look like we really weren’t trying to increase business and make money from this ad. They should have had the kid die by being hit by a drunk driver by someone driving home from a Super Bowl party. But I’m sure their beer advertisers wouldn’t be happy with that.

  36. Coy Ellis RN CPEN says:

    As a professional pediatric injury prevention program coordinator and a 25 year veteran pediatric nurse, thank you! If you think talking about this is uncomfortable…..well, I’m just saying. As Aldous Huxley said, “facts do not cease to exist because we choose to ignore them”.