Nationwide’s Super Bowl Fiasco


According to the “experts,” Budweiser’s puppy-horse commercial, in Super Bowl 2015, was America’s favorite. Here’s what that ranking means: it’s the least likely to sell beer. This spot is making people cry, but they’re not crying in their collective beer.

Reality Check: Spots in Super Bowl 2015 were $4.5M/half-minute, plus production costs.

If five of this commercial’s millions of fans drink, or will drink, Budweiser, I’d be shocked.

After Super Bowl 2014, I told you that Puppies Don’t Sell Beer. They don’t. They can’t. If Bud wants to continue wasting money on entertainment, instead of investing in an actual brand, that’s a decision for the shareholders of InBev, its Brazilian-Belgian owner, to make.

Branding Axiom: If commercials make you laugh or make you cry, here’s what they won’t do: make you buy.
Nationwide Insurance ran a Super Bowl spot that took this axiom a step further: it made people angry.

The Twittersphere is on fire. Morning-radio hosts are bleating. During the Super Bowl, when everyone wanted to be entertained, Nationwide converted widescreen TVs across America into cauldrons of childhood death.

Attempting to calm the torch-and-pitchfork, guilt-ridden mob of parents, Nationwide explained the sole purpose of its message — about preventable injuries that kill kids: to start a conversation, not sell insurance.

Let me repeat: Nationwide declared that the sole purpose of its message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance. A branding blunder. A fiscal fiasco.

Preventable injuries around the home are the leading cause of childhood deaths in America. Most people don’t know that. Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation. The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance. We want to build awareness of an issue that is near and dear to all of us — the safety and well being of our children. We knew the ad would spur a variety of reactions. In fact, thousands of people visited, a new website to help educate parents and caregivers with information and resources in an effort to make their homes safer and avoid a potential injury or death. Nationwide has been working with experts for more than 60 years to make homes safer. While some did not care for the ad, we hope it served to begin a dialogue to make safe happen for children everywhere.

What CEO would greenlight this? A CEO who knows nothing about branding.

A commercial has one objective: sell the product. Is the Super Bowl a good place to sell a product? No. Will CEOs be crazier with their spending/entertaining/not-selling in Super Bowl 2016? Yes.

As Donald Trump would intone: Somebody has to be fired.

Parting Advice to CEOs

If you have extra shareholder cash to flush down the toilet, and your board of directors consents:

  1. Buy exorbitantly priced commercial time during the Super Bowl
  2. Make the funniest, saddest, weirdest, or most-maddening spot you can imagine; pay through the nose for its production
  3. Hope for validation from people who won’t buy your product
  4. Beat up your VP of sales for failing to move the revenue needle
  5. Excoriate your VP of marketing, as per usual
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 above for subsequent Super Bowls.

POSTSCRIPT #1: Weight Watchers Drops Agency After Super Bowl Ad Fails to Deliver

POSTSCRIPT #2: GoDaddy Decides Not to Waste Money on 2016 Super Bowl Commercials


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


© 2015 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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