Super Bowl Ads Take on Serious Tone

The coveted commercial slots at this year's Super Bowl XLIX traded in the usual slapstick humor for a more emotional type of advertising. Top advertisers including McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Carnival all took a page from Budweiser's book and went for ads that tugged at viewers' heart strings. Brands like Nationwide Insurance aired an ad on preventable childhood accidents while Carnival used a voiceover from John F. Kennedy to speak poignantly about the sea. McDonald's unveiled a promotion to let select customers "Pay With Lovin," or random acts of kindness while Coca-Cola focused on transforming cyberbullying into positive messages. Budweiser's ad featuring Clydesdale horses that befriend a lost puppy was posted online the week before the game and notched more than 42 million online views before kickoff, which marked the most of any Super Bowl advertiser, according to measurement firm iSpot.tv.

Nationwide's ad featuring a young boy talking about a life he never lives because he died sparked immediate backlash on social media. The company issued a statement late Sunday defending the commercial as a way "to start a conversation."

"Preventable injuries around the home are the leading cause of childhood deaths in America. Most people don't know that. Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation. The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance. We want to build awareness of an issue that is near and dear to all of us-the safety and well being of our children," the statement read. "While some did not care for the ad, we hope it served to begin a dialogue to make safe happen for children everywhere."