1. Super Bowl commercials have evolved a lot since the days of ubiquitous bikini-clad beer models, but even in 2015 — a year in which spots about domestic violence and feminine hygiene products won widespread critical acclaim — there are still some topics too taboo for audience to handle, it seems.

    "Dead children," as it turns out, is one of said topics.

    Nationwide Insurance has been dealing with an avalanche of backlash and mockery since Sunday evening, when a spot for its #MakeSafeHappen campaign aired during the second quarter of Super Bowl XLIX.
  2. Make Safe Happen - Nationwide 2015 Super Bowl Commercial
  3. The ad starts out innocently enough by following a mop-topped youngster as he goes about his day.

    "I'll never learn to ride a bike, or get cooties," he says after being kissed by a girl on the cheek. "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," the child deadpans to the camera, "because I died from an accident."

    Uh... what?

    The little boy's bombshell is followed by an eerie shot of an overflowing bathtub with a text overlay that reads "the number one cause of childhood deaths is preventable accidents."
  4. Unlike most of high-profile Super Bowl ads to air in recent years, Nationwide's "Boy" was held back from being released on YouTube ahead of the game.

    The American insurance company had chosen instead to debut the ad on television during the Super Bowl broadcast.

    Chatter about how "depressing" and "dark" this year's crop of Super Bowl ads were had already started on the #SuperBowlAds Twitter hashtag when Nationwide's #MakeSafeHappen spot aired.

    The presence of a child speaking from beyond the grave set fire to that sentiment, prompting tens of thousands to express how horrified / bummed out / disgusted / shocked / confused they were on Twitter.
  5. Even before the big game had ended, media outlets, ad critics and many on social media were already declaring Nationwide's "Boy" 2015's worst Super Bowl commercial. Ironically, the company's second spot — which featured Mindy Kaling and Matt Damon — was hailed as one of the best.

    "Should you have missed [Nationwide's] attempt at mass manipulation, it featured a little boy who will never learn to ride a bike or learn to fly because he's dead," wrote Chris Matyszczyk for CNET. "The point, you see, is that, according to this advertiser, the No. 1 cause of childhood death is preventable accidents. So buy our insurance now!"

    Bustle's Lindsay Denninger remarked that "this tone-deaf commercial is like the end of The Sixth Sense, except we are all eating spicy, cheesy nachos and seeing dead babies instead of Haley Joel Osment... Nationwide didn’t read the room of screaming football fans quite right, and boy, oh boy, was the Internet ready to throw Nationwide to the wolves in Budweiser’s Super Bowl commercial."

    "Is there ever a good time to run a commercial in which an adorable little boy describes the life he'll never live because he drowned in a bathtub?" asked New York Magazine's Margaret Hartmann. "Possibly, but millions of shocked TV viewers felt the first half of the Super Bowl wasn't it.

    In response to the backlash, Nationwide issued a press release on its website Sunday evening. It reads:

    "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."
  6. The President of Ogilvy & Mather New York, the advertising firm that had created the spot, also defended the ad on Twitter.
  7. People on Twitter did not take kindly to his remarks, or to Nationwide's assertion that the ad was meant only to "start a conversation, not sell insurance."

    "The last thing we need is for anyone to instigate a 'conversation' that will only heighten the fears parents already feel," wrote Jessica Goldstein for Think Progress. "The language in this statement is, if possible, even more off-putting than the ad itself: Nationwide wants us to know that 'the sole purpose' of the message was to get everyone talking about safety. It’s not about selling insurance! That would be so crass. How dare anyone suggest such a thing."
  8. While most of those who've reacted to this controversial Nationwide ad seem rather unimpressed with the company, as Ad Age notes, the spot did manage to generate quite a bit of buzz.

    In fact, it was the most talked about Super Bowl commercial of 2015 according to digital marketing technology company Amobee, with over 230,000 social media mentions during the game alone.

    The commercial has now been viewed nearly two million times on Nationwide's YouTube page in less than 24 hours, thanks at least in part to the volume of media attention and online reaction its been receiving — an impressive feat, even for a Super Bowl ad.

    The commercial continues to generate conversation — and brand mentions for Nationwide — all over the web today as Twitter users crack "Nationwide kid" jokes (as Twitter users tend to do with almost anything that trends with so much magnitude.)
Read next page