Now Look Who's Shilling for Nationwide

Insurer Goes Back to the D-List and Comes Up With Sanjaya

By Published on .

Nationwide Insurance is casting aside K Fed -- who famously flipped burgers in a Super Bowl spot -- and has called on yet another pseudo-celeb that nobody would want near his or her insurance decisions to be the face of its commercials: Sanjaya Malakar.
Sanjaya Malakar and his hair (right) on location in India for a Nationwide spot
Sanjaya Malakar and his hair (right) on location in India for a Nationwide spot

The "American Idol" reject, cast off in season six of the show, will star in the newest installment of the insurer's "Life Comes At You Fast" campaign, which along with Kevin Federline has also featured D-listers Fabio and MC Hammer.

In the ad, Sanjaya -- who we are told is currently on location filming the spot in India -- apparently visits a monastery only to be advised to get a retirement plan and a new hairstyle (I couldn't agree with the monks more).

Much like on "Idol," the spot's scene-stealer is expected to be Sanjaya's wacky hairdo: "It certainly got people's attention on 'American Idol' so hopefully it helps generate more buzz about the new ad," Sanjaya said in a Q&A conducted by Nationwide and sent to AdAges.

If Sanjaya's foray into marketing is successful -- and judging by all the attention garnered by the K Fed spot, viewed over and over on YouTube and winning fans everywhere (with the exception of fast-food workers), it probably will be -- unfortunately for Nationwide, it's probably short-lived.

Sanjaya goes on to say in the Q&A: "I've got big plans. I just moved to New York, and I'm so excited to be living there. I'm looking forward to pursuing some opportunities in acting and modeling. I'm also beginning work on a new album that will be released later this year. I can't wait for fans to hear it. I'm looking forward to showing the world a whole new Sanjaya. 'American Idol' was great, but I think there's a lot more to me than what you saw on the show. The Nationwide commercial is the first of many exciting projects I have planned."

One can only guess where he and his Mohawk will turn up next. Launch a branding consultancy, maybe?

Nationwide says the forthcoming Sanjaya campaign is an example of the insurer's support of diverse markets, this one apparently designed to build brand awareness among South Asians -- 'cause, like, duh, they've got all the dough, plus they are responsible and stuff.

"Asian Indians have among the highest annual household income -- even higher than the general population," explained a Nationwide spokesman in an e-mail. (Dammit! If only I was a doctor or a pharmacist like the rest of them!)

"The rapidly growing South-Asian market is very important to us," said Tariq Khan, Nationwide's VP-market development and diversity. "The creative work in these print ads and TV spots reflect tradtions and situations that South Asians can relate to."

Finally. A company that gets how to connect with my peoples.

(Oh. Apparently Asians being targeted in insurance-company advertising is a trend. Gawker posted the following today about State Farm's ads.)
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