There was a lot of panning companies who ran ads during the Super Bowl because they were so damn depressing. Apart from educating the public about the damaging decrease in self-esteem most girls suffer at puberty (#runlikeagirl) and portraying an incredibly powerful anti-domestic violence ad, (calling 911 for “ordering pizza”) the rest of the commercials did their level best to impart heavy relevance to their otherwise emotionless products. Annoying and sad, yes. Outrageous? No. Except for Nationwide. Their Mindy Kaling ad was phenomenal and hilarious in a silly and sardonic way. I loved that ad.
Their second ad, though? With the cherubic little boy talking about all the things he’ll never do?
“Why is that, sweetheart?” we wonder. “Why won’t you do these things like get cooties and learn to ride a bike?”
“Because I will die in a preventable household accident,” he tells us.
We’re then subjected to images of bathtubs running over, smashed TV sets, open cabinets under sinks where, of course, the bleach is stored. The internet exploded with derision and sarcasm, taking Nationwide to task over the inappropriateness of the commercial, and how unnecessary it was to get the point across in the way it did. Many of the tweets and memes were smart and funny, and a friend sent one to me knowing I hated the commercial. It is extremely funny and clever, and yet I couldn’t laugh.
I couldn’t laugh at this brilliant tweet because I was too angry. I wasn’t annoyed that Nationwide was bumming me out, man. I was angry on behalf of all the people I know whose children have died so young. How triggering it must have been for them. How many of them may have sat down to watch football in an attempt at normalcy to have their worlds re-shattered during the half-time show? How many of them had to leave the room sobbing because Nationwide was attempting to send a “powerful” message to sell their insurance? For Christ’s sake, people.Now, I realize the domestic violence ad may also have triggered reactions to people for whom that tragic topic hits much too close to home. However, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are aware the NFL has its very public issues with domestic violence, and is under tremendous pressure to air ads against it during their football games as a sort of public penance. You know because this is highly publicized, and are able to brace yourself or leave the room when commercials come on.
If your child has died, however, either from cancer, a car accident, or drowning in a kiddie pool, you would have no reason whatsoever to expect to be assaulted with that scenario and those soul-searing images in the midst of the Super Bowl. You’d have had no warning and no way to prepare. And I am furious on your behalf. That commercial was likely more than just a bummer for those living their lives with this type of irreplaceable loss. It was cruelty under the guise of caring-about-you-so-please-buy-our-insurance. To me, it was unconscionable.
People will tell me to lighten up, and while yes, this commercial was awful and a bummer, it’s not a worthy target of my wrath. I understand that, and I’m not even telling others they should feel keenly as I do about this particular advertising decision. However, not even the use of Mindy Kaling, Matt Damon, and Peyton Manning in your funny commercials can make up for that childhood accident commercial. At best, it was emotionally insensitive. At worst, it was emotional barbaric, and I believe you owe this special subset of parents your direct and passionate contrition.