Monday, December 14, 2009

Toxic advertising: Nationwide insurance

While this blog was conceived as a way to keep track of chemical toxins in food and kids products, I decided to stretch the concept in order to draw attention to an ad I'd consider to be toxic messaging.

I was driving to work one day recently and heard an ad for Nationwide insurance. It was a man's voice, speaking as an agent. I believe it had something to do with accident forgiveness, which is a nice thought, but the context of the ad was very troubling. Essentially the man said, if you have a teenage driver, it's not a matter of if he or she is going to have an accident, it's a matter of when.

What kind of horrible social norming is this? We should broadcast to our young people that they are destined to have a car accident, indirectly giving them permission to have an accident? This language is not constructive and, let's face it, while teens are more likely to have an accident than the general population, it's NOT a forgone conclusion. I did a quick poll at my office and most had not had an accident as a teenager. I could not find a file of the exact ad, but I'll keep trying to track that down to embed here or link out to it.

If you're not familiar with the concept of social norming, here's an old article in USA Today that does a good job of explaining it.

I'm not a Nationwide customer and I will not support a company who carelessly bandies about hurtful messages like this, using fear and hyperbole to sell their product. Shame on them!

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