Monday, March 14, 2011
It started with Geico I think. It was either the cute little lizard or the cavemen. The question is when did selling insurance become so funny?
In today's ultra competitive world of insurance to be successful you need a differentiator. Decades ago an insurance company only had to show it was large and strong and most importantly it had to be trustworthy. An insurance company had to be solid like the Rock of Gibraltar, as sturdy as the majestic elk or some such immovable object. Now, just being stalwart and at the ready is not enough - you have to be funny.
It's an ad executive's dream. These are clients with lots of money that fill the commercial airwaves with hundreds of 30 second spots everyday. Geico, a company I had never heard of before the little green gecko, was ahead of the game with several effective campaigns before the others got off the ground. Though I quickly grew tired of the cavemen spots the first few were very funny. The little Geico Gecko is always pretty good, I don't cringe or feel the desire to change the channel when he pops up. Some of Geico's other campaigns make me want to shoot the TV. All I can say is the wee wee pig was about as much as I could take.
Progressive, another company I had never heard of, jumped in with Flo the perky insurance sales-floor clerk. They rode this one for a long, long time and have largely succeeded it keeping it funny. It too is starting to wear thin. There are people who truly hate this woman - I've read somewhere the real life actor has had death threats.
Obviously these ad campaigns have been effective. The proof is probably in their respective bottom lines if you so inclined to do some homework, but all the proof you need is to see that the big boys are all trotting out funny ad campaigns of their own.
Perhaps my favorite is Mayhem. This ad campaign is so clever and downright funny that I have become "friends" with Mayhem on Facebook. Allstate, which is one of the biggest and most well known companies in the country, has a hit. Mayhem, if you haven't seen it is the personification of the trouble that awaits drivers out in the cold cruel world. The commercials can be downright hilarious.
Nationwide has their "World's Greatest Spokesperson" bit that is also clever and fresh. Statefarm went the serious route with young modern male singing the praises of a company that's bigger than both Progressive and Geico combined. Statefarm has supplemented those commercials with funny spots where the insured simply sing the famous company jingle "Like a good neighbor Statefarm is there" and an insurance man pops in out of thin air. These can be quite funny, but ultimately not sustainable like the little Gecko guy. Farmers recruited the actor J.K. Simmons to guide us through the courses at Farmers University. Some of these spots have been pretty good because J.K. Simmons is pretty good.
Don't surprised to see even more dull and stuffy insurance companies going the comedy channel route in the future. Me, I personally don't use any of these companies as the choices we have as insurance consumers is legion. This super competition keeps the rates low and that is good thing. I for one don't mind quick, funny little commercials, it's when 14-15 of them get shoved into a 3 minute space that gets me spitting at the TV.