Nationwide, K-Fed Stoke Pre-Bowl Ad Publicity

Nationwide Financial Services unleashed another round of pre-game publicity yesterday with the official unveiling of its controversial Super Bowl advertisement starring aspiring rapper Kevin Federline as a fry cook dreaming of stardom.

Steven Schreibman, Nationwide's vice president of advertising and brand marketing, hosted a day-long media tour in New York yesterday with a grey-suited Federline after the 30-second ad "officially" broke during a news segment on Good Morning America. It was then posted on the Nationwide Web site, where ancillary elements such as ring tones, a 60-second director's cut, and a 3-minute clip of Kevin's rap will be added through the week.

Nationwide also launched advertising for the advertising--an online marketing campaign with banners on sites such as Yahoo and CNN targeting females visiting financial pages. Featuring so-called K-Fed, the estranged spouse of Britney Spears, the banners link to the campaign. The ad plays on the story line of Federline's marital woes, with the tagline: "Life comes at you fast." It's slated to run at the end of the third quarter on Sunday.

Adding fat to the fire, as it were, was criticism from the National Restaurant Association, which complained the ad was demeaning to restaurant workers.

"I don't think they've seen the ads yet," said Schreibman, who admitted "we did not see that coming." It added an extra week of publicity. A poll on the ABCNews.com Web site showed a 3-1 margin of voters saying the ads were tongue-in-cheek and not demeaning.

The decision to advertise on the Super Bowl, where a 30-second spot is drawing as much as $2.6 million, was an easy one for Schreibman, who saw awareness, purchase intent and other important measurements increase "significantly" after last year's ad featuring romance novel cover stud Fabio. After last year's game, the Fabio ad was posted on iFilm and received 1.8 million downloads. "That's a cable show," Schreibman said.

The campaign from TM Advertising, Dallas, promotes annuities, a product designed to provide a fixed income. Despite Federline's age, the appeal is intended to reach a broad demographic swath.

"You'd have to have been living under a rock not to know the story. Everyone knows the story. My Mom knows the story," Schreibman said. "My research was going home at Thanksgiving and describing the idea and everyone at the table laughed."

On a more serious note, Schreibman said, Nationwide wants to educate people that their products go way beyond insurance, for which Nationwide has been "on your side" since 1926. "Everyone's petrified and no one knows how to talk about it," Schreibman said of retirement planning. "Nobody but a select few know how to manage their finances." The campaign also incorporates direct mail, retail and agent marketing materials. Agents will receive a copy of the spot in the mail.

A clip posted on YouTube last week was one of the most talked about Super Bowl spots measured.

Federline, for one, is happy with the ripple effect on brand K-Fed. "This has been a great way to start the year," he said.

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