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The Nationwide Ad Was NOT An #EpicFail

Nationwide

In the most literal definition of “Monday morning quarterbacking”, the verdicts are in on the best and worst of the Super Bowl advertisements.

Apparently, to quote the book of Daniel in the Old Testament – or yeah more recently the awesome A Knight’s Tale movie – Nationwide Insurance was “weighed, measured and found wanting” in one (that’s right they had two) of their Super Bowl ads.

The ad in question featured a young boy who would have had an awesome, magical life – but unfortunately he died. As a result of the backlash, the company has come out with a statement – which seems clearly improvised – that says:

“The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.”

And that’s the interesting thing. One of the things that’s getting lost in all the noise about how depressing it was (and yeah it kind of was) was that it was the only Super Bowl ad that I counted that was actually firmly based in the approach of Content Marketing. That’s right – it was the only ad that was actually advertising content instead of a product.

Yes, Nationwide missed an early opportunity. But the only way this becomes an #EpicFail is if they let this kill what could ultimately be an interesting and valuable approach to creating value for their customers.

I think there are three key things that make up this missed opportunity – and I truly hope they plan to re-align their efforts around them. Or, hopefully, they become lessons for marketers looking to do something similar.

  1. They didn’t go all the way.
    It strikes me that there must have been some interesting conversations with the agency and the company about “how much” company branding to put into the commercials. And in making this a Nationwide commercial – instead of a commercial for MakeSafeHappen.com (the call to action in the commercial) I think they absolutely ceded the opportunity for it to really be about starting a conversation instead of the failure of a branded opportunity. By doing this they also, ironically, made the Mindy Kaling “invisibility” commercial fade from the discussion of fun commercials.
  2. The payoff isn’t there yet.
    So, I’ll take the brand at its word that this is truly about the conversation and about a resource that parents can use to make kids safe. But the payoff at MakeSafeHappen.com isn’t there yet. The Website is pretty – but it’s hardly a usable resource for information for parents. In fact it feels like they jammed a bunch of short articles about safety into a WordPress template. It feels very much like a PSA, not a valuable resource for parents to continually use for how to make their homes safer. Plus, there’s absolutely zero conversation going on there. There’s no way to have a conversation about the thing they want to have a conversation about.
  3. Yeah, the tone….
    So – I care less about this than the rest of the world – because at least they made a strong choice here. But, I think it’s less about the strong nature of the ad – and rather the disconnect between storytelling and an ad. There’s no story payoff. When you go to a great film, you feel cheated if the physics of the story are violated. If you’re going to “inspire” me with ways to be safe – and want to have a “conversation” about safety – we need to WANT to have that conversation. For example if the boy had ALMOST died – then we want to talk about what MIGHT have happened – instead of grieve for what actually did.

In short – the idea currently suffers from a campaign-minded and temporary focus for attention. It strikes me that the goal here was similar to creating a publicity stunt or political campaign. This idea is simply: let’s own the news cycle for a temporary bit of time before we go about our business as usual.

There really is a good idea there, and I absolutely applaud them for the guts to actually go big with a Content Marketing Idea. But, now, to make it work – it’s NOT business as usual. In my mind – the only way this idea becomes an #EpicFail is if they actually don’t get to it.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.