What's really depressing about Nationwide's ad? They had a good idea and blew it.

Companies like to talk about "starting a conversation." Too often they forget they no longer control it. 

Companies like to talk about "starting a conversation." Too often they forget they no longer control it. 

Last semester, one of my graduate students took on the difficult communications challenge of reducing sleep-related infant deaths in one of the poorest sections of New York City.

Talking to young mothers (many of them single teens), the student uncovered a crucial insight: the moms didn’t like being told what to do, especially when it came to the safety of their own children.

As a result, prevailing safe-sleep “awareness” programs felt like one more way of being lectured to for doing the "wrong thing," rather than reinforcing what’s right. #GetOffMyBack

Nationwide Insurance may have made the same mistake with its widely criticized Super Bowl ad that depicted a child who died in an accident.

While intended to promote household safety, the ad unintentionally scolds “bad parents” who, in effect, contribute to the deaths of their own kids by not being more careful. #WeHaveEnoughToFeelGuiltyAbout

I’m not sure if Nationwide can recover from this debacle and that’s too bad. Because aligning with child safety could have been a brilliant brand strategy in a category more known more for wisecracking geckos and motormouth waitresses.

In the meantime, rather than defending itself for wanting to “start a conversation" with its controversial ad, Nationwide should listen to what people are saying and pull the plug.