Nationwide ad featuring ‘dead’ child is most controversial of Super Bowl

GoDaddy may be off the hook.

Insurance company Nationwide set off a Twitter firestorm Sunday with its first of two commercials in the Super Bowl, a 45-second spot featuring a young boy talking about all the things he won’t be able to do in life … because he’s dead.

Among the things the boy says he’ll never experience: riding a bike, getting cooties, learning to fly, traveling the world in a boat with his dog and getting married.

"I couldn’t grow up," the boy says, "because I died from an accident."

How does this tie in with insurance? The commercial ends with an on-screen message that says the leading cause of childhood deaths is preventable accidents. Images on the screen show a bathtub overflowing, an under-sink cabinet that’s been opened and raided and a TV that has fallen onto a living room floor.

A woman’s voice then narrates the final line: "At Nationwide, we believe in protecting what matters most — your kids."

Though the message is certainly important, the method of delivery ran afoul of many viewers’ sensibilities:

It’s the second major Super Bowl commercial uproar in the past few days. GoDaddy caused a stir when it leaked a commercial that made light of the "puppy mill" situation. It responded by pulling the ad before the game.

A second Nationwide ad aired later during the Super Bowl, a much more light-hearted spot featuring actress Mindy Kaling, but for many the damage was already done.

Nationwide explained its thought process with a statement late 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 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."

Well, mission accomplished on the conversation. But what do you think? Fair or foul?