Research Proposal

Impact of Nationwide's 2015 Superbowl Ad


To understand the impact that Nationwide's 2015 Superbowl Ad, "Boy" had on the company.

Early Findings

  • During the 2015 Superbowl, Nationwide aired an ad called "Boy" as part of their "Make Safe Happen" campaign that has since been referred to as the "Dead Boy" ad. It featured a toddler dreaming about his future and ended with the revelation that the boy was dead as the result of an accident.
  • The ad drew sharp criticism on social media as well as from advertising experts like University of Wisconsin professor Dr. Thomas O'Guinn who said, "I hate this ad. I hate it on every level. If you want to be a defender of advertising, this is the prosecution's best evidence of why advertising is bad for us."
  • A company that tracks emotional reactions on social media in real time, Canvs, noted that 40% of reactions to the ad included the word "hate" and 40% included the word "crazy."
  • The ad generated over 230,000 social media responses during the Superbowl, almost 2/3 of which were negative in nature and only 12% of which were positive.
  • The significant negative reaction to the ad resulted in Nationwide issuing a statement later the same night, stating that the ad was intended "to start a conversation, not sell insurance."
  • The following year, the ad was ranked #1 on a list of the worst Superbowl ads in the past 15 years.
  • In 2016, Nationwide, who typically is a prominent Superbowl advertiser, and whose spokesperson, Peyton Manning, was playing in the game, did not produce any Superbowl spots, a move many believed to be a response to the backlash from 2015.
  • At the end of the first quarter of 2015, Nationwide's earnings were up by 4% over the first quarter of 2014. At the end of the first three quarters of that year, the company was still up 3% over the same period in 2014. These stats may indicate that the fallout from the ad did not have a financial impact on the company.
Prepared By
Erin J.
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