It used to be that insurance commercials were created to convey one thing above all else — a feeling of total security and warm fuzziness that Company X was going to be there for you after your house blew up or your car got flattened by a rampaging elephant. Ad campaigns from agencies like Nationwide, State Farm, and Allstate were full of sensible people making sensible decisions. The slogans drove this theme home even more succinctly: Nationwide was on your side, you were in good hands with Allstate, and so on.
But somewhere along the way things changed and insurance companies decided to start getting a bit cutesy with their ads. The Aflac Duck (voiced by the unlikely pitchman Gilbert Gottfried) debuted nationally in 1999, while local companies such as Chicago-based Eagle Insurance had even started their bizarre “Eagle Man” campaign six years earlier.
But Geico raised the stakes forever with one humorous, well-received campaign after another. The Geico Gecko (originally voiced by Kelsey Grammar) debuted in 1999. Some of the more memorable ads to follow the Gecko were the TV show parodies (loved “Tiny House”) and the slew of celebrity cameos (Tony Little says, “You can do it!”). In 2004 the Geico Cavemen debuted, and it’s still one of my favorite campaigns to this day.
So thanks to companies like Aflac and Geico, it seems like every damn insurance company has to have a whimsical campaign of some sort. Most of them fail pretty miserably. Let’s take a look at some current ones, shall we?
Geico — Rhetorical questions
This series, featuring actor Mike McGlone channeling his inner Robert Stack, seems to be getting the most play for Geico these days. Like the best Geico ads, they’re very simple but very surreal at the same time. The hit-to-miss ratio on these is very high, with some of the best featuring Charlie Daniels, R. Lee Ermey, honest Abe Lincoln, and an enthusiastic piggy crying “wee wee wee” all the way home. My current favorite answers the age-old question concerning woodchucks and their propensity to chuck wood.
Progressive Insurance — Flo
Progressive first came to my attention several years ago with a rather dry campaign touting their willingness to research competitors’ car insurance rates against theirs. I can’t be the only one bored to tears with those ads, so in 2008 we met Flo (Stephanie Courtney). Flo is an impossibly cheery insurance salesperson/Wal-Mart greeter. I found her retro vibe to be kind of cute at first, but now I waver between ambivalence and mild irritation at her ads. Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon.
How’s this for a mind-blower. Flo (well, Stephanie) had a bit part on an episode of the short-lived Cavemen ABC TV show, which itself was based off the Geico Cavemen. Don’t believe me? Check it:
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