How many car insurance company slogans can you recall right now— you know them by heart from their many TV ads. That is the power and success of advertisers and marketers using humor or satire. They add a great can’t-get-out-of-my-head jingle and a funny story, and the commercial leaves an impression. In the last few years it seems as if the number of these types of commercials that are character or slogan driven have increased.
As I was giving consideration to the notion above and how to start this blog article, I thought why not survey people and see what car insurance commercials came to their minds. The first was my 13 year old son on the way to school one day last week. I asked him what commercials he could remember that were funny or that he liked the slogans (I think I used the word jingle with him). In the 5 minutes it took to drive him to school there were several he could recall (he obviously watches too much TV):
- Allstate – Mayhem commercials. The Character “Mayhem” embodies all that can go wrong with your car (he is a satellite dish that fall from the roof).
- State Farm – The commercial with the husband on the phone in the middle of the night with Jake, from State Farm. The wife takes the phone and says. “What are you wearing Jake, from State Farm? Numerous State Farm commercials with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers “discount double check”, using his touchdown dance move.
- Nationwide – Peyton Manning humming the “Nationwide is on your side” jingle as well as singing to it – “nothing beats that new car smell” and “chicken parm you taste so good”.
Other individuals that I spoke with mentioned these commercials:
- GEICO – Many with the talking Gecko and also the one with “This Little Piggy” hanging out of the car window.
- Esurance – “Insurance for the Modern World” – the nice old lady that manages to be comfortable with modern technologies and using Facebook by literally “posting” pictures on her dining room wall.
- State Farm’s “magic jingle” (like a good neighbor state farm is there), father, son and grandma out in the desert, grandma saying “there are 15 calls ahead of us Jimmy”.
- Allstate – several commercials were projecting spokesman Dennis Haysbert’s signature baritone voice through other people’s mouths. The one that someone recalled in particular was the commercial with the very young “smart girl” that called attention to Allstate’s accident forgiveness feature.
- Progressive – Several people mentioned the Flo commercials. Most recently the commercial titled “family dinner conversation”, where she plays several of the characters around the table.
Car insurance is a $161 billion industry obsessed with risk protection, but they seem to be anything but conservative when it comes to marketing over the last several years. The top companies are putting a lot of money into advertising that in the past was more in line with the beer and travel industries. Car insurance companies are placing a lot of funding into splashy campaigns, partnerships with celebrities and athletes, including Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Flo from Progressive has over 5 million likes on her Facebook page and at least 32,000 followers on Twitter.
How much do all of these commercials cost? Are our premiums higher because of the talking British gecko and Flo? Do you select an insurance company based on their commercials? Maybe this advertising barrage brought in so many new customers and so much new revenue that your policy rates will go down? Experts say that isn’t likely, as the competition is to win market share primarily from each other.
Researching the cost was the shocking part to me. Data provider SNL Financial found GEICO had spent about $994 million on advertising. That was 22 percent more than next-largest spender State Farm, even though State Farm’s ad spending grew at nearly three times the rate GEICO’s did. SNL found that GEICO’s ad budget represented 6.5 percent of the premiums it wrote last year. Among the rest of the five largest auto insurers in the country, none spent more than 4.9 percent of premiums on ads. For the whole industry, in fact, the average is just 2.4 percent. (Allstate spent $745 million or 3.0 percent on advertising; Farmers spent $718 million or 4.9 percent and Progressive spent $536 million or 3.9 percent, according to SNL.)
Why the shift over the last few years to these humorous character and slogan driven commercials? It is primarily due to the shift from the traditional insurance agent to do-it-yourself rate shopping hyped by companies like GEICO and Progressive that educated millennials to seek quotes online. As we continue to see enhanced technology via computers, tablets and mobile phones, I don’t see the shift to this type of insurance advertising slowing down any time soon.