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Auto insurers raise controversy with Super Bowl ads

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Business Practices | Insurance
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Several auto insurers plugged their policies during Super Bowl XLIX, but Nationwide made perhaps the biggest impact — though not necessarily the one intended.

The company has inspired a major social media backlash for its ad “The Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up,” which featured a child struck down early through an unspecified but preventable household accident, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Nationwide told the Journal that they knew it’d be controversial, though “the negative reaction from the social space was a little stronger than we anticipated.” (Of course, the social space is always going to have a negative and often hilarious reaction to just about everything before Facebook and Twitter users move on to the next meme.)

The company also released this statement on Sunday:

“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.”

It’s a good lesson to those working on ad campaigns to choose the right messaging and strike the right chords with the audience you are trying to connect with.

Nationwide’s message, regardless of the controversy, should be kept in mind by both insurers and collision repairers, as choosing the proper parts and procedures can prevent further damage or injury in subsequent crashes. This reality can be lost in the “negotiations” of settling a claim that seeks to mitigate expenses.

Cure Auto

In other controversy, Cure Auto Insurance also pulled a pair of “Blue Balls” ads based on what it said were complaints from NBC, the New York Daily News wrote.

However, NBC told the newspaper that they didn’t have say over regional ad buys — the ads were scheduled for New York and Philadelphia — but Cure said the regional affiliates were fine with the chortling spoof of the “Deflategate” controversy.

A different version of the ad ran, and Cure retweeted multiple users who praised its humor, though Newsday called the package one of the worst ads of the game. (It also hated the Nationwide ad.)

Cure is also the insurer behind “Repair Shop,” which while pro-body-shop digs at the aftermarket and insurance industry.


And finally, there was Lindsay Lohan pitching eSurance, which has generally drawn positive reviews, such as this one from Hollywood Life, despite the possible taste question of putting her back behind the wheel.

One also has to wonder the propriety of spending that kind of money for advertising in all these cases while being notoriously tight on repair costs. In a similar vein, read Repairer Driven News’ coverage of a California court ruling that Mercury Insurance couldn’t pass along naming rights advertising to consumers under Proposition 103.

More information:

“Nationwide Knew Super Bowl Spot Would Touch a Nerve”

Wall Street Journal, Feb. 2, 2015

“NBC pulls auto insurance Super Bowl ads over ‘blue balls’ joke: insurer CEO”

New York Daily News, Jan. 30, 2015

Featured image: This screenshot from Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen website shows a promotion for their controversial ad “The Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up.” (Screenshot of

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