Super Bowl XLIX had the highest overnight rating in the history of the game, and while many people tune in for the actual game, a surprising number watch exclusively for the commercials. According to a survey by ad agency Venables Bell and Partners, 78% of Americans look forward to the Super Bowl’s ads more than the actual game. While exact numbers have not come in for this year’s game, last year’s Super Bowl drew in more than 111.5 million viewers, which means that more than 86.97 million viewers were watching for the commercials.
It also means that a veritable myriad of people were treated to an onslaught of sadness this year, too.
According to the Venables Bell and Partners study, the vast majority of viewers — 95% — prefer funny commercials, yet this year’s round of Super Bowl commercials had several, rather sad advertisements. According to People magazine, the level of sadness reached a “‘Stay with Me’ on repeat and red wine sad. Liking your ex’s old vacation pictures alone on a Friday night sad. Requiem for a Dream scored to Bright Eyes sad.”
Some of the brands who harshed Super Bowl viewers’ mellows included Nissan, Toyota, Carnival Cruise, and Jeep.
However, it was Nationwide Insurance who delivered the saddest commercial of all. It began with a cute little boy riding his tricycle, asking for his friends on bikes to wait up for him and his dog, who is running beside him. Then, a voice over started, with the kid saying, “I’ll never learn to ride a bike. Or get cooties. I’ll never learn to fly or travel the world with my best friend. I’ll never, ever get married.”
Why won’t Nationwide’s child be able to do these things?
“Because I died from an accident.”
The insurance company then claimed in the commercial that the number one cause of childhood death is preventable accidents, giving parents a good reason to take out insurance.
“This year’s super bowl ad’s were way too serious. We understand what the advertisers wanted to accomplish by drastically changing the viewers emotions,” says Kelly Cooper, marketing and PR for Agency850. “However, since most people enjoy funny commercials and the football game is exciting and upbeat, don’t ‘kill’ the moment with something depressing. There is a time and place for serious moments in ad campaigns.”
Viewers were largely in agreement that the ad was just too heavy and serious. According to a mid-game poll by Cast App, 76% of survey respondents voted Nationwide’s dark ad as the worst Super Bowl commercial of the first half.
On the bright side, the insurance company did at least also offer another, funnier commercial, which featured the comical Mindy Kaling getting turned down by handsome Hollywood actor Matt Damon. While that might’ve been sad for Kaling, it did at least make viewers chuckle.