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Consumers: Is Nationwide really on our side?

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You know the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Well, what if said publicity is so bad that it causes a media storm and consumer backlash? Nationwide Insurance might be asking themselves this very question, along with many others, after their recent Super Bowl ad, though we won’t know if their bottom line suffers or profits from it until more time has passed.

Of course, we’re talking about Nationwide’s Super Bowl XLIX ad “Make safe Happen,” in which a kid lists all the things he’s never going to get to do because he died in an accident in his home. The ad has more than six million views on YouTube and was viewed by more than 114 million viewers last Sunday. Along with hundreds of comments on Nationwide’s  Facebook and Twitter pages, the ad spurred an official statement from Nationwide defending their position, which they hoped accomplished its intention: to get the conversation started about accidents around the home and how to protect children’s lives.

Some might get defensive because “no one can tell me how to raise my kids,” but this campaign seems like it is honest and aimed at raising awareness about taking precautions around the home to protect kids. Nationwide’s chief marketing officer, Matt Jauchius, offered an insight as to why they choose to air the shocking TV commercial during the Super Bowl on CNN Money earlier this week: “(…) you have to grab people by the scruff of the neck and say, ‘Listen, this is the No. 1 killer of children, and we want to do something about it, really.”

If you read some of the response to the ad, you might come to the conclusion that if just one life is saved because a parent secures the furniture to the wall, gets their TV properly installed on the wall or removes it from a dresser (which is not made to withstand the weight of some TVs), or if they check out the Make Safe Happen website for tips and other information, then mission accomplished.

All the hoopla has also made marketing agencies take note. For example, Phoenix Marketing International, a market research firm that also specializes in the financial and insurance industries, released a survey that analyzed Nationwide’s ads for Q4 of 2014. In it, they concluded that it was Nationwide’s TV ad featuring Peyton Manning humming the jingle “Nationwide’s on your side” (watch below) which flopped with consumers because there is a contextual disconnect. “Given the prominence of insurance advertising in the media landscape, consumers have developed an expectation that insurance ads will put forth some form of a product or service value proposition. When the ads don’t, they often leave consumers puzzled,” said Megan Daniels, vice president of Phoenix’s communications and brand analytics practice, on their website.

We can infer that perhaps this is what happened with Nationwide’s “Make Safe Happen” ad; it didn’t make a connection between the ad and the product, other than what most people have commented on social media – buy insurance or your kid dies. Other people have said that Nationwide’s non-televised ad (watch below) explaining their campaign would’ve been a better choice to air during the Super Bowl.

Phoenix measures different TV ads for being clear, informative, personally relevant and reassuring to consumers. The report presents the findings of more than 1,800 consumers surveyed each month regarding their perceptions of insurance brands, usage, shopping behaviors and response to advertising, according to their website.

If you want to see how ads are being perceived by teenagers, AdWeek and Hatch gathered a group of teenage girls and asked them to rate this year’s Super Bowl ads and explain why they did or didn’t like them.

What did you think of Nationwide’s “dead kid” ad? Did it hit home or was it out of line or did it lack context?

See also:

10 things the insurance industry can learn from the Super Bowl XLIX ads

4 marketing lessons from the new ‘Obamacare’ commercial

The 10 most memorable insurance ads ever