Nationwide has earned the dubious ranking of most-mentioned advertiser on social media – but two-thirds of those mentions are negative.
During this year’s Super Bowl, the insurance company aired a haunting spot about an adorable little boy saying he’ll “never learn to ride a bike” or “get cooties,” and will never “ever get married.” Why? Because, the little boy states sadly, “I died from an accident.”
Nationwide claims it wanted to spark a conversation on child safety, yet most viewers have blasted the ad as badly-timed and depressing. But that’s not all. Many commentators have expressed downright revulsion:
Jamie Harding (@jamiekharding) tweeted: “My friends who lost children called this: ‘a stab to the heart.’ I’ve been on the agency & client side. Horrific concept.”
And Paul A-D (@Robogeek) tweeted, “@Nationwide @Ogilvy Disgustingly distasteful.”
So, why are viewers responding with horror and disgust? To us, the answer is obvious. According to our WomIntuition℠ study, negativity does not work well in advertising. It’s more than the fact that we don’t find it fun: women are repelled by negativity. We emotionally shut down, instead of taking in the message. We look away, instead of being engaged.
WomIntuition℠ found that “stress affects women with a stronger and longer-lasting hormonal response.” As a result, advertising needs “less intensive negative stimuli,” and more positive affirmation.
And yet, brands seem foolishly seduced by this “shock for talk” approach. Urban Outfitters, for instance, is notorious for its negativity. Most recently, they produced a shocking Kent University bloodstained sweatshirt, recalling the 1970 Kent State massacre.
This method almost always backfires. A commentator for the Guardian said, “At this point, shopping at Urban Outfitters feels like indulging in clickbait.” She bemoaned Urban Outfitters’ “need to pull these stunts for attention.”
So listen up, advertisers: whether it’s the Super Bowl, or any other day, perhaps there’s an alternate model to follow in Budweiser, who produced the most positively-mentioned spot this year. Feature an adorable puppy – and let him return home alive and kicking.