Feb 2 (Reuters) - Nationwide Insurance defended its Super Bowl ad featuring a "dead" boy, saying on Monday that it was intended to start a conversation about preventable accidents, not sell insurance.
The ad, labeled by one Twitter user as "the most depressing ever", has a young mop-haired boy saying sadly that he won't be able to learn to ride a bicycle or get married because he "died from an accident."
The ad goes on to show an overflowing bathtub, a under-sink cabinet containing cleaning materials with the doors ajar, and a wall-mounted flatscreen TV that has crashed to the floor.
A female voice intones that at Nationwide, "we believe in protecting what matters most - your kids."
The response was overwhelmingly negative.
"Hope you guys are having a great day. Did you know your kid is probably gonna die soon? Enjoy your nachos & funeral planning!," Rob Fee of Louisville, Kentucky tweeted.
Nationwide was unapologetic.
"While some did not care for the ad, we hope it served to begin a dialogue to make safe happen for children everywhere," the company said on its website. (bit.ly/166llio)
Companies paid up to a record $4.5 million for 30 seconds during the game on Comcast Corp's NBC network seen by an estimated 100 million-plus viewers, the year's biggest television audience.
Apart from Nationwide's ad, Coca-Cola stood out with an anti-bullying message, while brewer Budweiser, owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, played on happier emotions by again featuring a labrador puppy.
The New England Patriots won Sunday's game, beating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24.
Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Ted Kerr