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ASU professor responds to controversial ad about child death

Joanne Cacciatore
February 03, 2015

The subject of a Nationwide Insurance ad that recently aired during the Super Bowl was met with general public outcry, with people using the words “disgusting” and “unspeakable” to describe it.

The ad in question follows a young boy who narrates milestones he’ll never experience in life because he “died from an accident.”

The major response it received got the attention of Joanne Cacciatore. As an associate professor in Arizona State University’s School of Social Work and as a woman who lost a child at birth, the subject of child death is one she is uniquely qualified to address.

“When the media utter the words 'child death' ... all hell breaks loose. Especially during a party,” posted Cacciatore on a blog that is part of her website, Center for Loss and Trauma, which helps people deal with the effects of traumatic loss.

Cacciatore spearheaded and directs the graduate certificate in trauma and bereavement program at ASU and is the founder of the MISS Foundation, a non-profit corporation with 75 international chapters committed to helping families heal from the trauma of a child's death.

In response to the backlash received by the Nationwide commercial, Cacciatore took to her blog to highlight the pointed comments from those who have not lost children and those who have. She notes that many people weren’t expecting this kind of commercial, especially during a marquee sporting event.

“Well, if you think it's morbid and horrific to watch an ad, imagine that this is your life,” she wrote.

The official Nationwide Insurance YouTube page for the commercial has more than five million views, along with a litany of negative comments. Cacciatore herself has seen a myriad of responses to her own blog post, which was viewed more than 10,000 times in 24 hours.

“The reaction to my blog is stunning really,” she says. “I've had private emails from many people who have expressed their gratitude. Many bereaved parents who felt the ad is necessary. Many non-bereaved parents who said they secured their televisions and dressers after the ad. Others who said they'd initially "hated" the ad but after reading the blog, they reconsidered, and now see the value.”

Regardless of which side people are on, Cacciatore is pleased with the awareness the advertisement created.

“It got us to talking about that which is otherwise unspeakable,” Cacciatore says. “And for that I’m hopeful. The door on child death was unlocked.”

Aside from her work with the MISS Foundation, Cacciatore counsels those affected by traumatic death. She is an advocate of “green” mental health care and a member of the American Psychotherapy Association, the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and the National Center for Crisis Management.

Her research has been published in peer reviewed journals such as The Lancet, Birth, Death Studies, Omega Journal of Death and Dying, Social Work, Social Work and Healthcare, and Families in Society, and her other work has been featured in major media sources such as People and Newsweek magazines, the New York Times, Boston Globe, CNN, National Public Radio, and the Los Angeles Times.

Wrriten by Chris Hernandez