Culture

Twitter decides on worst Super Bowl advertiser: Nationwide

Technically Incorrect: Presenting an ad featuring a little boy who reveals that he is, in fact, dead did not go down well with the twitterati.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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This little boy won't learn to fly because he's dead. Nationwide/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It's remarkable that the government hasn't eased its burden by deciding that all elections will be held via Twitter.

When the twitterati speak, it's as if theirs is the final barometer, the final arbiter of what is good and what is not.

During last night's Super Bowl, there seemed to be one ad that offended the twitterati's tensile emotions more than any other. It came from Nationwide Insurance. There was a firm belief that Nationwide was not on the twitterati's side.

Should you have missed this 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. 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!

You might think this a touch grave for such a trivial celebration of violence and eating as the Super Bowl. Those on Twitter thought it a touch disgraceful.

Business Insider quoted research from Amobee Brand Intelligence that suggested 64 percent of Nationwide's mentions in tweets were negative.

The negativity was perhaps best (and most politely) symbolized by ESPN's Dan Graziano, who tweeted: "No one in the Nationwide advertising meeting put up their hand and went, 'Let's sleep on this?'"

You knew that this was a serious situation when Nationwide hurriedly issued a statement Sunday. It read, in part: "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."

It's interesting that an advertiser would claim to be spending millions not to sell its product.

But some might think that the claims of the twitterati were also a touch misguided . Many hissed that the ad was "a downer" or "depressing." Because the twitterati just want to have fun.

Was it really more depressing -- or any more cynical, for that matter -- than the NFL suddenly involving itself in an ad against domestic violence, after so many years of appearing to ignore or even cover up that very issue? (Yet this ad received much praise.)

Was it any more coldly calculating than Coke trying to persuade people that merely pouring its sticky drink over their computer keyboard will cure them of being mean on Twitter?

Sometimes Twitter becomes an easy vehicle for a swift, herded judgment. That judgment has fallen on Nationwide, perhaps rightly so.

Upon further review, though, on any given Sunday, Twitter might have many targets upon which to cast its final judgment.