Nationwide Bought Dead-Kid Super Bowl Ad Solely to ‘Start a Conversation’

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Is there ever a good time to run a commercial in which an adorable little boy describes the life he’ll never live because he drowned in a bathtub? Possibly, but millions of shocked TV viewers felt the first half of the Super Bowl wasn’t it. The online backlash against the Nationwide Insurance ad was so massive that the company issued a statement shortly after the game ended – and frankly, they’re a little offended that people think they paid nearly $7 million just to generate more business. “Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation,” the company said. “The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.”

Here’s the full statement, via NBC News:

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 MakeSafeHappen.com, 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.

Nationwide chief marketing officer Matt Jauchius also told Fast Company’s Co.Create that the purpose of the ad was to “in a way, stage an intervention on this issue.” They felt a less disturbing ad wouldn’t reach people. “It’s a hard thing to talk about,” he said “But it’s an even harder thing to have happen, so we wanted to make a serious and appropriate ad.”

So if you weren’t prepared to see a horrific reminder of the worst life has to offer sandwiched between Mindy Kaling trying to kiss Matt Damon and Katy Perry dancing with some sharks, that’s your problem.