Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Nationwide is on your side. (And I’m on theirs.)

Having missed most of Super Bowl, I didn’t get to see this year’s crop o’ ads.

But, as it happens, you don’t actually have to watch the Big Game to see the ads for yourself. And if you don’t want to bother to watch them on YouTube, you can read about them, which is almost the same thing as experiencing them in the throes of the game. (This vicarious experience  reminds me of when George Clooney left ER, and, with all the hoopla surrounding his departure, I found myself missing Dr. Doug Ross acutely, even though at that point I’d never seen the show.)

Anyway,  this year, most of what I know about the ads is what I read.

First off, I missed the better part of the game by going to an afternoon concert (chamber music, if you must know) and then out to dinner with my non-sporty sister Kath and my non-sporty brother-in-law Rick. Second off, while I did get back in time for the fourth quarter, I’m one of those chicken-fans who can’t watch a close game (at least one in which I care more than vaguely about the outcome) all that closely.

In the past, I could get away with this by leaving the room and having my husband shout out what was going on.

But now I’m on my own.

So I turned the game on, buzzed around getting things done, and looked in on it only when I heard that something was happening. This means that I unfortunately caught the unfortunate Kearse circus catch. And that, a few ticks off the clock later,  I fortunately caught the fortunate (at least from a Patriots’ perspective) final play: Butler’s most fortunate interception.

But with all my pay-attention-don’t-pay-attention buzzing around, I missed whatever ads were running during the fourth quarter.* So what I pretty much know is what I pretty much read. And that includes knowing that:

  • The Bud ad with the cute puppy and the Clydesdale was adorable. (Awwww….)
  • GoDaddy nixed its own cute puppy ad when it got a terrible reaction in the previews.
  • Nationwide’s ad depressed the hell out of a lot of viewers.

Nationwide’s ad was not about flogging insurance. Instead, it was a public service effort aimed at promoting a discussion about child safety.

Who isn’t in favor of child safety?

Why being opposed to child safety would, well, be like hating on cute puppies nuzzling up to Clydesdales. Unimaginable.

But the Nationwide ad did something completely unimaginable. It centered on the death of a child.

Having read about this ad, I did decide to check it out, and it is plenty grim.  The ad starts with an adorable little boy reciting the things that he’ll never get to do with his life. All because that life was cut short in an avoidable household accident. We then learn that avoidable accidents are the number one cause of childhood death, and that Nationwide cares about the things that matter.

Good to know.

Beyond that, it’s a bit hard to make the connection between insurance and children’s safety. Get insurance that will cover you if your child is in some terrible, avoidable accident? Insure your child’s life so that, if the unimaginable happens, you’ll at least have some money. (Just swell. This reminds me of the time, many years back, when the late John Silber, as president of Boston University, had a cockamamie plan to take out life insurance on the school’s students. Here’s hoping a couple of kids take a header off a party house…)

But if, as Nationwide claims, its intent was to perform a public service and start a conversation about making the world a safer place for kids, I guess you can say, with all the discussion about the ad, mission accomplished.

Except that most of the conversation is of the how dare they variety. As in, how could they take a minute during that holy of holies, the Super Bowl, to put on an ad that’s depressing. That’s disturbing. That might spook a kid watching.

Let me get this straight.

There’s nothing depressing or disturbing about the fact that one-third of those young, fit, virile men going at each other on the fake battlefield  for the entertainment of those of us on our couches eating Doritos are going to end up with significant brain damage while they’re still young?

There’s nothing depressing or disturbing about watching a naked blonde beauty – with  the fancy bits “cleverly” covered up – prancing around in pursuit of some new burger that’s available at Carl, Jr’s? Good, wholesome, family-oriented fun. Who doesn’t like a good visual joke equating breasts to melons? Certainly no 10 year old boy in the audience.

Yet an ad that dares to bring up the subject of the death of a child has no place in our national spectacle.


Whatever the marketing disconnect between Nationwide’s products and this ad, what’s wrong with having this conversation?

If, because of this ad, one kid’s life gets saved because mom thinks twice about leaving her loaded gun in her pocketbook...

If, because of this ad, one kid’s life gets saved because dad decides it’s a stupid idea to leave his eight-month old splashing in the tub while he goes to answer the door…

If, because of the ad, one babysitter gets off the smartphone and goes to explore when things get too quiet…

Then I’d say that Nationwide has performed more of a public service than Bud with its next episode of dog-horse love, let alone Carl Jr’s. (Boobs! Melons! Get it? Get it?)

Although I don’t have any children of my own, the thought of losing a child is so horrible, it’s difficult to imagine anything worse happening – especially if the child dies because of an accident.

How does anyone live with having run over their kid in the driveway because they didn’t see him in their rear view mirror? With leaving their toddler alone in the kitchen for two-seconds when there’s a big pot of boiling water on the stove, and having the inevitable happen? With forgetting to screw the aspirin jar cap on tight?

I’m sure that there were plenty of people who found the Nationwide ad weird. Or inappropriate. Or hurtful.

But I’m going on the record as saying that, on this one, I’m on Nationwide’s side.


*Thankfully, I also missed the disgusting end-zone touchdown celebration in which one of the Seahawks mimicked dropping trow and crapping out a football. I guess he felt he had to out-do his teammate who, two weeks earlier, mimed masturbation when he scored. What is it with these guys? Say what you will about the Pats, I don’t recall any of them pulling a stunt like this.

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