Every year, brands spend several million dollars each for the opportunity to air one 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl, the biggest television event of the year. These companies tend to go all-out with this opportunity, doing everything they can to create the funniest, most interesting or most memorable spot they can, knowing that the “best” Super Bowl ads will be relived in the news media for days afterwards.
It has been a long time since a company completely blew it when it comes to their Super Bowl ad — especially the way insurance company Nationwide did this year.
The 2015 Nationwide Super Bowl commercial, entitled “Make Safe Happen,” was the subject of widespread ridicule immediately after it aired and throughout the following several days. The advertisement features a child talking about all of the life milestones he will never be able to experience — because he passed away. The theme of the ad was that many children die from preventable accidents in the home, but the perception of many viewers was that Nationwide was using the death of a child in an emotionally manipulative way to sell a product.
Soon enough, the overwhelming criticism of the ad, which has about twice as many dislikes as likes on YouTube right now, gave way to Internet memes mocking it. Using Nationwide’s own #MakeSafeHappen hashtag and another user-made hashtag that began trending worldwide (#NationwideAMovie), hundreds of thousands of people began tweeting out memes and jokes about just how ridiculous and off the mark the TV commercial was.
This has to be a marketer’s worst nightmare — Nationwide spent millions of dollars on an advertisement that, rather than “starting the conversation” it was apparently looking for, actually incited significant backlash, ridicule and jokes at the expense of the brand. It can be tough to judge how people will react to an ad, and the fact that we are all connected like never before through social media makes it easy for criticism to spread around the world in a matter of minutes.
The situation Nationwide finds itself in represents another example of how one slipup in your marketing strategy can cause a significant backlash and fail to achieve the intended impact. Obviously the brand’s mistake was on a much larger scale than most businesses will ever experience, but the fact remains that it’s extremely important to spend a lot of time considering whether your campaign is sending the right message to your customers before you give it the green light.
Tim Backes is a senior editor with ProPRcopy, a company that delivers high-quality copywriting services for brands’ effective content marketing strategies.