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Mind your messaging…a response to the Nationwide Ad

February 4th, 2015 | 9 comments


Dear Nationwide,
I didn’t watch the big game Sunday night, so I missed the unveiling of your ad.  My husband was away and my son was watching the game with friends, so I had some “me” time.  I took an hour to write and caught up on some of my favorite shows.  Honestly, I felt like I didn’t miss a thing.  I rarely get the quiet time, so I relished every moment.

Like most Americans, I wasBusinessman hand drawing an umbrella above a family concept for curious to see the commercials.  They are always filled with emotion, shock value and creativity.  They did not disappoint.

But I cannot tell a lie.  Your ad, though creatively presented, simply gutted me.

I am a bereaved parent.  I lost one son at birth, and my eldest son Stephen died on a perfect July 4th day, going for a swim.  An accidental death that will never quite make sense, but one that I have learned to accept and channel into something that could help others.

I spend year after year thinking about the things that my child will not do.  He never graduated from college.  He never got that first big job.  He never married.  He’ll never have children of his own.  He will never have that light bulb moment as a new parent, gazing into the eyes of his newborn and being hit by the instant knowledge of how he would move heaven and earth for this baby, feeling a love he never knew possible.  He’ll never drop his kids off to Nana so he and his wife can get away for the weekend.  He’ll never….

Don’t get me wrong.  In terms of effectiveness, I am sure the ad really pulled people in.  And I truly appreciate the helpful tips you provide for parents for “making safe happen.”  I am sure they stopped in their tracks when the little boy said he died.  That’s what people do.  It is a parent’s worst nightmare.


But don’t insult them, and other bereaved parents like me by saying:

At Nationwide, we believe in protecting what matters most: your kids.

You provide insurance, and a website with helpful hints.  Parents protect their children, and even that is not 100%.  You can offer a policy for families to have in place in case things happen.  You can help the family take care of medical costs associated with accidents by taking advantage of some of your products.  But sometimes, things happen; things so random, so difficult to comprehend that there are simply no words to give meaning or understanding to what has completely changed your existence.

And let me tell you something else.  There is also no insurance policy that you can say is going to, beyond a shadow of doubt, protect my children from harm. I’m a customer of yours, and if there was, I would have remortgaged the house to pay that premium years ago.

I am sure I am not the only bereaved parent that was physically and emotionally affected by the ad.

I have talked to other bereaved parents who live every day with the unanswered questions, and the guilt, wondering if they could have done something that would have altered the outcome.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him and wish that we could have a do-over for that day.

I understand what you were trying to do.  I appreciate the safety tips.  But as one of your customers, I have to tell you, I think it was over the line.  I think it misleads the audience as to exactly what you can protect and cannot, and I think it uses one of the worst possible things that could happen to a family as a cautionary tale to grab your audience.

Please remember that “He’ll never” is something that bereaved parents like me live with each and every day.  Please remember that the best thing you could do is to remember the PEOPLE who are behind those policies.


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9 people have commented
  1. Kelly, I couldn’t agree more. There seems to be a sensitivity filter missing in the minds of advertising teams these days. I sent off a lengthy written comment to the CEO of Go Daddy a couple of days ago because their “Stick it!” commercial where the obnoxious women wakes her frail Nana to yell “Stick it!” and blows out the memorial candle beside a picture of her father with his urn of remains beside it on the mantle as she yells “Stick it!” all because she didn’t feel recognized by them. Meanwhile the demographics today could tell any numb skull that many families are dealing with the deaths of elderly family members these days. It’s cheap, inconsiderate and lazy advertising and very worthy of being called to account for the results.

    • Jo, I didn’t see that one, or I would have added it to the blog! I am glad you took the time to write a letter. It is lazy, and the easy way to get attention with shock value. I hope that the push-back they’ve received reminds them that they are advertising to humanity, and there is a line that should not be crossed.

  2. Wow, they definitely crossed the line here. Sorry you had to experience this discomfort. yet again. I woud be moving my business elsewhere for sure. I understand advertising and shock value, but this commercial is awful!

    Take care,

  3. Dear Kelly,

    Thank you for sharing your insights and speaking up in such a thoughtful and heartfelt way. I am shocked by the total insensitivity of this commercial from Nationwide. While it is true some people say the most inappropriate things to those of us that grieve, Nationwide should have known better and expressed a greater amount of emotional intelligence on this one. I am 5 months post the loss of my husband. I would never even begin to say to you, “I know what your going through”. I don’t. How could I? But I sure can deeply respect your take on this one and applaud you for taking the time to put it into words. Really bad choice Nationwide! You owe every grieving parent/sibling an apology for this commercial.

      • I think your response to Nationwide was one of the most thoughtfully articulated I’ve seen. I have three healthy grown children and I still was repulsed by the ad. As a marketer myself, with a liberal outlook on life, even I would never have given a green light on that commercial. But what’s worse is their stubborn stance to reach out to those they hurt. It’s a misguided act of self preservation.

    • Phil, Thank you so much for your comment. I did read your post with the attached link. I was moved by your honest and heartfelt response, and I am so, so sorry for the loss of your son Blake. It is a club that no one wants membership to, but it is a comfort to connect with others who walk this path. We are not alone. Thank you for connecting.

  4. My heart goes out to you. I was shocked by that commercial and I don’t have kids. Accidents happen and insurance is only effective after the fact. Their implication is repulsive and I abhor fear mongering. Very bad marketing decision on their part.

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