The “Bad” Advert

The ‘Bad’ Advert: How Nationwide actually got it right*

19 Feb 2015

*Albeit, accidentally.

Superbowl: The event of the year for advertisers. Millions of dollars are spent per year getting a coveted spot in the numerous ad breaks: to be more precise, $4.5 Million for a 30 second slot.

I’m going to be honest: I don’t watch the Superbowl (unless plied with whisky). I don’t understand American Football in the slightest and all the stopping and starting just compounds my general confusion. My knowledge of the adverts displayed is garnered by either proactively watching them, or by just hearing the coverage of the media.

According to my latent knowledge this year (I wasn’t plied with whiskey to watch it, sadly) the main post-match coverage regarding the Superbowl surrounded three aspects:

  • The Patriots beating the Seahawks because… something to do with a pass? (It’s irrelevant to the article anyway, shh)
  • Left Halftime Shark
  • Nationwide’s ill-advised advert

Left Halftime Shark, no doubt, stole the show when it came to this years’ Superbowl. The internet users of the world jumped upon the brilliance of the completely inept dancing. Left Shark became the meme of February, the internet’s fuel, the sea dwelling King of Digital. So popular was Left Shark that Perry got lawyers involved to prevent the sale of merchandise from internet vendors. Left Shark became the symbolic Lord of Super Bowl 2015, and it was fabulous.

The greatest part, however, was the irony of the situation: a dancer who forgot their moves in a frankly awful shark costume managed to overshadow millions of dollars’ worth of company’s adverts.


“Oops, did I steal your thunder?”

Post-Superbowl and since Left Shark hype has died down a tad, there have been varying debates upon which Superbowl ad was the most successful. The Guardian has since reported that the ‘Liam Neeson spoofing that one quote he’s famous for nowadays’ Clash of Clans advert was the most popular aired at the Superbowl due to its 36 million Youtube hits. In the meantime, Time declared the ‘Lost Dog’ Budweiser ad to be the most successful, being the advert which was the most engaging and being the most shared of the Superbowl ads according to a variety of sources.

None of these address the coverage Nationwide received for its ill-conceived advert.

‘There is no such thing as bad publicity’ goes the saying. This might not be entirely true in all cases, but as a blanket statement it does ring with truth in digital marketing. Even if you get it wrong, as is the case with Nationwide, then at least the company is on people’s lips. Nationwide was the most-mentioned advertiser on social media at the Super Bowl. And what happens when social media gets involved? The media get involved. Nationwide ended up with more articles over the internet sparked by this mass outrage, and thus successfully became the most talked about bank. Before researching this article I’d barely heard of Budweiser or Clash of Clans’ ads; I had, however, seen the outrage caused by Nationwide. The company triggered debates about insurance commercials, released a statement explaining why they fully expected the reaction they received, and even sparked a new meme. And if there’s anything that is great for advertising, it’s your audience creating more adverts for you.

Nationwide was essentially the Left Shark of the Superbowl ads: it may not have done precisely what it meant to, but it grabbed your attention. And that is the sign of a good advert.




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