There are certain things we expected to see during yesterday’s commercials. Puppies, horses, cars, and lots of skin, to name a few. We didn’t expect to be confronted with child death. But Nationwide Insurance had one of the most jarring commercials in recent memory (which you can watch above) when they tackled this very subject in a way that was not only shocking, but heartbreaking.
My 17-month-old daughter, Madeline, died very suddenly in 2009. While it was a respiratory infection and not an accident that caused her death, the ad still hurt me deeply. I watched in disbelief as the commercial showed a little boy doing a variety of activities, some real (like riding a bike) and some imaginary (like getting cooties or flying). In a somber voice, the boy narrated:
“I’ll never learn to ride a bike, or get cooties! I’ll never learn to fly, or travel the world with my best friend. And I won’t ever get married. I couldn’t grow up … because I died from an accident.”
And then these images flashed on the screen:
With a voice-over by Julia Roberts, who said, “At Nationwide, we believe in protecting what matters most: your kids.”
The commercial, entitled “The Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up,” is in support of Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen campaign. They have a website with dozens of safety tips designed to help make homes and cars safer for children. It’s a very important message, one that we can all benefit from learning more about, as every year thousands of families lose children from preventable accidents.
However, the way they chose to highlight this message literally made me sick. I was so startled by the ad that I ran from the room and cried in my bathroom, totally nauseated. I didn’t even watch the rest of the game.
Every single day I think about the things my daughter will never get to do. She never went to school, or made a friend, or rode a bike. She’ll never have a job, or graduate from college. She’ll never fall in love, never have kids, never live. To see a child, who looked to be about the age my daughter would be now, say all of those things was devastating.
I know that Nationwide was trying to get America’s attention — and they did — but the way they did it feels incredibly manipulative. The shocking way they shaped the commercial completely overshadowed their message, and that’s unfortunate. The topic alone would have been a standout amongst a field of humorous commercials. So while I appreciate what they are trying to do, I just can’t get behind how they’re trying to do it.
Images courtesy of Nationwide/YouTube