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What story do you want to tell?

February 3, 2015

jessonline

Campaigns are tricky.

People don’t remember your intentions, or your mission. They remember what you said. And how you said it. Communicating what you mean to communicate- telling the story you want to tell, is what matters. Making it powerful. Making it resonate. Retailers use shock value to create a memorable message. But what about when it’s the wrong message?

Nationwide’s Super Bowl commercial is a good example of good intentions gone awry. The “Make Safe Happen” campaign is a great idea. An honorable mission: to raise awareness and reduce the occurrence of ‘preventable accidents’, which are the #1 leading cause of death for children.  But the story they told was awful. Dark. Shockingly grim. They took what could have been an opportunity for hope, inspiration- and tear jerking happiness (think the Budweiser puppy getting saved by the Clydesdales), and they killed the kid.

You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKUy-tfrIHY

A good idea- with a bad message. Because in the story they tell, the kid dies. Not inspiring. Not hopeful. Not warm & fuzzy. It ruins the story. They WANT to tell us that preventable accidents are just that- preventable. And together, we can save so many lives. But that’s not the story they told.  The story they told is that if we’re careless, kids die. See what they did there?

In interviews, Nationwide says they were surprised by the level of negative feedback they got- but they meant to be shocking. They wanted to raise awareness for this important issue- not sell insurance (read the interview in the WSL’s CMO Today section, by Nathalie Tadena). From the article:

Nationwide was mentioned more than 238,000 times on social media but only 12% of those conversations were positive, according to data from Amobee Brand Intelligence.

“The intention of the ad was actually not to sell insurance,” Mr. Jauchius said. “It was to raise awareness of a cause that we’ve been championing for decades at Nationwide, which is to keep kids safe from preventable accidental injuries.”

Ok, then. That’s not what we all heard. We heard- the kid dies.

Why did they take that dismal path?  This just makes me, as a viewer, angry, upset and bitter about Nationwide (me and thousands of others in the universe). Why couldn’t they turn that message around and show how working together to prevent these accidents could save thousands of lives, and show how because of our efforts together, this boy lives to achieve his dreams- because at the critical moment- his mom ignored the phone call and stayed with him in the bathtub instead…? Why not turn it around? Let the boy live. Let us cry and choke up with happiness instead of grief.

Let’s take a look at a retailer that took the opposite path. The most inspiring commercial from the Super Bowl was the #likeagirl campaign, from Always.

You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3GpXgFwWmk

This, like Nationwide, is a commercial with a message that isn’t about selling a product. Like Nationwide, the product doesn’t make an appearance until the final moment- isn’t even relevant to the story. But after watching it- I want to support the product. Why? Because it’s inspirational. It made me feel good. It’s about empowering children. Empowering our girls. Taking a persistent slur, ‘like a girl’, and turning it around into something GREAT. It’s not the first time this has been used this way- ‘fight like a girl’ has been used to support Breast cancer research. Why? Because it works. It gives us power. It doesn’t threaten to kill our children if we’re dumb.

Thinking about powerful messages in advertising, it’s the ones that give us something that make a lasting impression. Power. Hope. Inspiration.

Which story would you want to tell?

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