Insurance company, Nationwide, pissed off a lot of people by throwing a dead child into the middle of everyone’s Superbowl festivities. Here’s the ad in question.
It might, generously, be described as a bit of a buzzkill. The overall message though, is that kids are fragile and accidents can be avoided with a bit of caution. Judging by the number of vitriolic responses to this ad, that’s a surprisingly controversial stance. Despite the outcry, it’s a highly effective ad for several reasons.
1. Firstly, it set the mood very efficiently. And in order to work, it had to. Insurance is a dry topic. It’s not something a roomful of festive less-than-sober individuals are going to think about, much less talk about, without a serious mood jolt. This ad provided exactly that jolt. It was the televised equivalent of a sobering slap to the face.
In short, the ad was meant to make you feel bad because happy people are in no condition to contemplate insurance premiums.
2. Secondly, it got people talking, both on social media and in the real world. As soon as it aired, Twitter was all atwitter with talk of it. It was so out of sync with other ads that people simply couldn’t let it pass without comment. And so, lacking anything else to say in 140 characters or less, people started arguing over whether it was a good ad or a terrible ad. Suddenly it turned into a debate centerpiece, and because everyone loves a good bandwagon, people went out of their way to jump aboard, watch the ad and develop an opinion.
It’s the kind of exposure and brand engagement that people dream about, and Nationwide only got it because they set out to ruffle a few feathers. Of course, whether all that buzz translates to even a single extra customer is up for debate.
As for real world chatter, it was even more spot-on. Imagine all the awkward silences that filled houses across America right after that ad. Now imagine all the people who felt the need to break that awkward silence by saying something, anything, about Nationwide. That dead child yanked people out of their football comas and suddenly forced them to actually think about accidents and insurance.
3. The third and most obvious reason it was a good ad was because it’s memorable. It stood out in a field typically crowded with glamorous car ads and talking animals shilling beer.
Funny ads are more entertaining to watch, but when they’re surrounded on all sides by other equally funny ads, they quickly fade into the background. A memorable ad has to stand out from the pack, even if that means pissing a lot of people off. Whether or not its worth it another question entirely.