Nationwide's new Super Bowl spot -- its first since 2007 -- will star actress and writer Mindy Kaling in an effort to bring some light humor and authenticity to the push. The 45-second spot, created by Nationwide's lead creative agency, McKinney, will debut during the second quarter of the game on Feb. 1.
The company is releasing a teaser online today, in which Ms. Kaling feels invisible and takes full advantage of it -- stuffing her face with ice cream and walking through a carwash.
The spot, part of the "Join the Nation" campaign, aims to push customer service by tapping into a common consumer sentiment. "Consumers increasingly feel as if brands are treating them as if they're invisible," said Matthew Jauchius, EVP and CMO at Nationwide. "We're here. We understand that. We put members first."
At a time when competitors like Geico are getting edgier and sharper in their spots, Mr. Jauchius said Nationwide strives for a different type of humor. "It's a bit more of a chuckle and a smile than a hard laugh," he said.
The ad is not only meant to be funny, but to connect with audiences."That's where Mindy came in," Mr. Jauchius. "She's an incredibly real and authentic person and her millions of fans feel like they really know her."
Nationwide plans to draw on that fanbase, including her 3.6 million Twitter followers, to generate buzz around the spot. Ms. Kaling will spread the word about her Super Bowl debut leading up the launch.
The company is also relying on the teaser to generate buzz after sitting out of the Super Bowl for eight years. "It's the best way to build more sustainable buzz and awareness," said Mr. Jauchius, who relied on analytics to make that call.
Ms. Kaling, best known for "The Mindy Project" and "The Office," collaborated with McKinney and Nationwide's brand team to write the spot. She came up with the teased carwash scene, among others, Mr. Jauchius said. The ad was helmed by Doug Liman, who directed "The Bourne Identity," "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," and "Swingers."
"My writers and I had so much fun brainstorming ideas for this ad because it was all about wish fulfillment," Ms. Kaling said in a statement. "For instance, I have always wanted to walk through a car wash. And then I got to do it for the ad!"
Matt Damon was also spotted on the commercial set, according to the Daily Mail and other tabloids. Mr. Jauchius declined to comment on whether there will be any celebrity cameos, but he hinted that Ms. Kaling won't be alone. "I can't reveal who will be in the spot with Mindy," he said. "In the land of Super Bowl spots, whoever that talent is will create quite the buzz."
Nationwide first appeared in the Super Bowl in 2006 and again in 2007, but stayed out of the game the next year after failing to find a winning concept. Mr. Jauchius said the main takeaway from those past ads -- which featured Fabio, Kevin Federline and the tagline "Life Comes At You Fast" -- was that the investment pays off the most when it connects to the brand's overall strategy.
"The spot has to be strategically linked to your main advertising campaign," said Mr. Jauchius, who said the company's past ads took more of a one-shot approach.
Nationwide is supporting this year's spot with digital, social media, and on-site activations at the event. It also became an official sponsor of the NFL in August. The ad will live on past game day with media buys planned for March Madness and other national stages.
Mr. Jauchius declined to disclose the budget for the campaign, but said that Super Bowl buy did not boost Nationwide's planned spending for the month. "It is an allocation within the February media plan," he said, adding that the company advertised during the Winter Olympics this time last year. Interpublic's Universal McCann handled the media buy.
Nationwide spent $306 imillion in U.S. measured-media last year, according to the Ad Age DataCenter.
The company will pay close attention to its analytics to see whether the investment was worth it, which will influence its decision to advertise next year, Mr. Jauchius said.