Exec Behind Nationwide’s “Dead Boy” Super Bowl Ad Steps Down

Not too many ads from the most recent Super Bowl will be remembered years from now, perhaps with the exception of the Nationwide insurance commercial that was instantly dubbed the “dead boy” ad by the Internet, because… well, the star of the spot is an adorable moppet who also happens to be dead. Now the Nationwide exec who signed off the infamous commercial has stepped down from his top-level job at the insurance giant.

Ad Age reports that Nationwide Chief Marketing Officer Matt Jauchius has left the company to pursue other opportunities, which is definitely not code for something else.

The 45-second Super Bowl ad features a young boy reciting all the things he won’t be able to do: ride a bike, fly, travel the world in a sailboat with his dog, get cooties from a girl, or get married.

“I couldn’t grow up,” says the youngster, staring straight into the camera, “because I died from an accident.”

Then, as if to drive the point home with a mammoth hammer, the ad cuts to shots of the various ways in which the boy might have died — an overflowing tub with toys floating on the water; an under-the-sink cabinet opened so as to display all the toxic chemicals that could be consumed; an unsecured flat screen TV that has fallen forward.

It’s pretty grim, especially for Super Bowl Sunday.

And while the ad has done gangbusters numbers online — the official YouTube view counter is nearing 7.1 million — much of the feedback about the ad is either negative or mocking.

In the wake of the backlash, Jauchius told AdAge that “We weren’t trying to sell insurance with this spot, we were trying to save children’s lives.”

That’s definitely a worthwhile cause, and it takes chutzpah to use the Super Bowl as your platform to remind people of our fragile, mortal existence. Perhaps if the ad had been run by some non-profit child safety organization with Nationwide sponsoring it, the response wouldn’t have been so dramatic.

The former CMO had much better days at Nationwide before overseeing the Dead Boy spot. He was behind the popular “Nationwide is on your side” and “Join the Nation” campaigns that didn’t send millions of TV viewers spiraling into depressions.

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