Monday, February 19, 2007

Blast turns ad into a hit with legs

Indulge me one more look at the overreaction by the National Restaurant Association to the Super Bowl ad that depicted Kevin Federline as a fast-food worker who dreams of a rap star’s life, because the matter's not closed yet. The NRA’s initial harrumphing, explored here and from countless other online and newspaper soapboxes, was initially tagged as simple hypersensitivity. Now comes evidence that it was much more of a shoot-yourself-in-the-foot event, and a stellar one at that.

If you missed the spot, chances of catching a re-run are extremely high. The advertiser, Nationwide Insurance, has decided to keep airing the ad for about another year. That’s a routine lifespan for one of company’s ads, a Nationwide official told Columbus Business First, a publication serving the Ohio city. But, acknowledged VP of advertising and brand management Steve Schreibman, this spot was something special. Because of the controversy that the NRA ignited, Internet downloads of the commercial delivered another $22 million-worth of advertising for Nationwide. The article noted that some 1.2 million impressions were seen just at, and that’s merely one of the video sites hosting the ad.

By publicly blasting Nationwide for depicting a fast-food job as the farthest possible thing from being a music star, the NRA ensured that the portrayal it found offensive would be shown to several million more people. It’s a backfire of monumental proportions.

Keep in mind that the NRA initially warned Nationwide to yank the commercial or risk a blow to its business. The association noted that it would tell restaurateurs about the insurer’s disregard for the industry’s image, and it suggested that many of those foodservice operations were likely to be Nationwide customers.

Instead of slapping Nationwide’s wrist, the NRA landed it an estimated $22 million in free advertising.

The saving grace for the association: Sensitive indeed would be the watcher who picked up a negative impression of a foodservice job from the ad. The joke was on Federline, not the industry, with the spot suggesting he’d fallen far from his days as K-Fed the aspiring rap star, and husband of Britney Spears. Nothing negative about the job was suggested, except that it doesn’t land you in furs, bling and the arms of arms of accommodating babes.

If that’s the worst that can be said about foodservice jobs, the NRA may want to pay for a few Nationwide spots itself.

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