"Unfortunately, there wasn't anything as timely as the Kevin Federline/Britney Spears story, and since it sort of took a sad turn, we didn't want to try and capitalize on that," said Steven Schreibman, VP-advertising and brand management at Nationwide.
A Super Bowl spot had been part of the plan and part of the budget all along. The challenge was coming up with something that could resonate as well as Federline and Fabio.
You can't say TM Advertising didn't try, though. The creative agency of record known for Nationwide's "Life Comes at You Fast" advertising theme pitched more than six storyboard concepts.
'We set the bar really high'
"Some were cute and some were funny, but we set the bar really high," Mr. Schreibman said. "Unless we saw something that really blew us away, I wasn't going to fight for it. It wasn't an issue of money."
Nationwide entered the Super Bowl fray for the first time in 2006 with an ad that featured Fabio and set off a media frenzy worth $7.2 million in ad value, thanks to 158 million impressions and 500 media stories, according to the company's own in-house return-on-investment measurements.
A recent study by Cymfony, a division of TNS Media Intelligence, named Nationwide's Federline ad the year's most successful celebrity spot. Moreover, the study said Federline slinging fries garnered Nationwide eight times the "buzz" of other Super Bowl ads.
Beyond the challenge of finding a perfect-pitch creative concept, Mr. Schreibman also said one-day event just didn't compare with the almost yearlong opportunity of the company's new Nascar sponsorship.
'The Super Bowl of racing'
"The thing with Nascar is that it lasts 10 months out of the year," he said. "When it kicks off with the Daytona in February, that's like the Super Bowl of racing. For Nationwide to be a part of that is huge."
In early October, Nationwide announced a seven-year deal estimated to be worth between $70 million and $80 million to become the title sponsor of the former Busch Series sponsored by Anheuser-Busch for 26 years. The series will be known as the Nascar Nationwide Series, and the insurer plans to kick off a nationwide TV and print campaign starting with Daytona in mid-February.
"This is our first time stepping up and doing a gigantic naming-rights sponsorship of a series. No one in our category is doing this," Mr. Schreibman said. "For us it was about what was going to be the most consistent, long-term message."
When asked if he thought any of this year's Super Bowl spots might be able to inherit Nationwide's spot as most buzz-worthy ad, Mr. Schreibman said: "Beyond the excitement and buzz of who is in and who is out, none of the concepts really excite me yet."