During the Super Bowl, Nationwide ran a gratuitous commercial with a dumb title, "Make Safe Happen," about dead children. "At Nationwide, we believe in protecting what matters most," the voice-over intoned. "Your kids."
We've got that covered, Nationwide. Thanks though!
About 95 percent of normal people took to Twitter to call out the ad for the distastefulness of using dead kids to sell insurance.
To sell insurance! Nationwide was hurt and outraged at the very suggestion that it ever wanted to recoup the millions it spent producing and airing the Super Bowl ad.
"The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance," the company said in a statement. "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."
Let's run that back and play it in slow motion: "b u i l d a w a r e n e s s … o f a n i s s u e t h a t i s n e a r a n d d e a r t o a l l o f u s"?
On what issues will Nationwide try to raise awareness next year? The yumminess of sugar? The upsides of bowel regularity? Things to do with money?
My dad did advertising for GM in the sixties—back when it was accepted that "what's good for General Motors is good for America." Once he pitched them on some nice brand advertising about the safety of the cars. The gist of the ads was, "We make cars because you drive your kids to school every day." A GM executive rejected the ads on grumpy grounds, "People know damned well we don't make cars because they take their kids to school. We make cars to make a profit!"
My dad thought the GM guy suffered from a lack of imagination, and he probably did.
But maybe it's better to suffer from a lack of imagination than from an overactive imagination, that allows advertising people to believe—at least for long enough to write some phony nonsense—that companies spend millions to start conversations, raise awareness and drive your kids to school safely.
Communicators can't afford to believe that nonsense for an hour, because the public doesn't believe it for one second.