A Mother Walks into a General and Mayhem Ensues

By: Kyle Jelinek
Associate Director, Client Strategy
Oxford Road

The US Auto Insurance industry is massive. With the industry totaling $259 billion in revenue last year, it’s no wonder there are so many auto insurance companies vying for a chance to earn their piece of the pie. This week, we use Audiolytics™, Oxford Road’s proprietary method of measuring ad copy across 71 data points* (the most comprehensive scoring system in the market), to dissect how three very different insurance companies approached their television ads in an attempt to stand out from their thousands of competitors.


Audiolytics™ Score: 52.05%

With a 9% share of the market, Allstate is the fourth largest auto insurance company in the country, so it’s understandable then that their creative approach is more about brand-building than driving performance. Even though their Mayhem campaign is entertaining, it leaves a lot on the table that could have driven performance, as Audiolytics™ will display. With a score of 52%, they’re sacrificing substance for entertainment.

What they got right:

SETUP & EXECUTION – Though they spent 28 seconds out of 30 entertaining us, they did it at the level savvy audiences have come to expect. No doubt a lot of money has been spent to establish the Allstate “Mayhem” character and, as such, this ad is spent reinforcing the character’s personification of common situations that lead to insurance claims.

What would make this spot Audiolytics™ Certified?

The other 7 Key Components (Value Proposition, Positioning, Demonstration, Substantiation, Offer, Scarcity, Path)

This is where the power and purpose of Audiolytics™ come into conflict with ads that are clearly NOT built to drive an immediate response, sparking debates bordering on the philosophical. What is the purpose of advertising? Is it better to be associated with a memorable idea, or a memorable value proposition? Ultimately, it is the job of the ad to deliver against a KPI set by the leadership team at Allstate on the time horizon provided for the media. We may never know what that KPI is, but it might be worth taking a page from the number 2 category leader, by market share, Geico. “15 Minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance” wraps up Value Proposition, Positioning, Demonstration, and Offer, while stretching into Substantiation, Scarcity, and Path. Everyone is so distracted by how attention-grabbing their Setups and Executions are, they don’t even notice the genius of the true messaging structure that lives at the center of each Geico campaign. How come no one ever talks about that?


Audiolytics™ Score: 64.30%

Though it’s the least known of the three companies we’re exploring, Good2Go has been in business for more than 25 years focusing on selling insurance for those looking for the bare-bones insurance required by law. Their commercial attempts to bridge the gap between performance and brand but falls short. With an Audiolytics™ score of 64.30%, Good2Go does a commendable job of explaining the problem and presenting themselves as a viable solution, but it feels like they were serving two masters. The first part of the ad is more focused on story but then the ad shifts to heavy DR with animated text. The end result is an ad that neither builds a brand nor drives response.

What they got right:

VALUE PROPOSITION, DEMONSTRATION, and PATH – This ad does a passable job of giving the critical information you need about what is on offer, how it works, and where to go to get it. For this product and price point, that might be all you need. But there is still a LOT of room to grow.

What would make this spot Audiolytics™ Certified?

EXECUTION – There was a clear disconnect in the style between the live action moments in the spot and the graphics. Part of being clear is also being consistent. Note to performance marketers: You’re paying for many people who will only see your ad and never hear it. Why leave out the lower third call to action?

SUBSTANTIATION – Why should anyone trust Good2Go? We didn’t get a reason. This can be established by using a spokesperson like we’ll see later with Shaq and The General, or meaningful endorsements, data, or social proof.

SCARCITY & OFFER – There is no compelling reason given why the viewer should act now. From the DR feel of this spot, it is safe to assume it’s not an annually planned brand strategy being booked during upfronts. In these cases, it’s best to add some urgency to drive response within measurable windows for better optimization.

The General

Audiolytics™ Score: 77.63%

If you’ve ever turned on the TV in the middle of the day, you’ve undoubtedly seen the animated “General” touting his auto insurance company. Founded in 1963 and operating in 25 states, The General is a part of American Family Insurance (10th largest in the US). Like Good2Go, The General targets consumers looking for a low-cost option for auto insurance. However, despite their relatively large size, The General continues to employ proven performance marketing elements in all of their TV commercials. This ad has all of the entertainment of a chess match, as the production quality is subpar, but the thing sells a ton of insurance.

What they got right:

SETUP – It’s crystal clear at the beginning of the ad what opportunity they’re presenting with Shaq saying, “Hey, you want affordable car insurance?” They get points for clarity. But, boy oh boy, there is ZERO style. And, here’s the hardest part for the artist in every marketer: maybe zero style is ok when the job of the ad is to SELL. You’re doing spike level analysis, doesn’t that mean you need this ad to convert in 30 seconds? This isn’t about a favorable brand impression someday. It’s about selling TODAY. Isn’t it?

DEMONSTRATION & PATH – Again, points for clarity. You know exactly what The General is offering, where to go, and what to do when you get there. You don’t have to spend your whole ad listing features and laying out the banal details of your website. But, you should spend enough time on it so that it’s CLEAR. That is if you need this add to convert not just within your test window, but if you’re going to be looking at attribution within the hour or the very minute the spot aired, then you better be CLEAR. Capisce?

What would make this spot Audiolytics™ Certified?

EXECUTION – At the tail end of this otherwise clear presentation of FACTS, a full 7 seconds is spent on lackluster “entertainment.” From approx. 0:18 – 0:25, The General throws a basketball at Shaq’s head and we hear laughter off-screen. A wah-wah moment, if ever there was one, that does not land at all. There are 7 seconds they could use to sell harder, or simply show Shaq using The General Insurance, or include the one gaping hole in their structure, POSITIONING.

POSITIONING – This is an often overlooked aspect of any marketing message. There is a general resistance to the concept of positioning ANYTHING which is philosophically summed up in the phrase, “You do you.” It’s almost a cultural axiom now that “Thou shalt not criticise or critique anyone.” There is a lot of room for all of us to grow in that respect. BUT, when it comes to peddling your wares, you owe it to your prospects to position your opportunity against the solutions they are already using because it communicates relative value. You can do this by giving FACTS – how much time or money does your product save? How is your product clearly better than the Status Quo solution, or having NO solution at all? If you don’t take the time to inform the audience why you’re different and better, they won’t switch or choose you just because they like your brand.

Before any concepts, scripts, or storyboards are created, marketers must first determine the ultimate goal of their campaign. If you want to build brand equity, an entertaining campaign like Allstate’s Mayhem will cost millions and will take months if not years to see whether or not the gamble paid off. For Allstate, it seems inconclusive. In a survey conducted nearly one year after the campaign launched (and hundreds of millions of dollars in ad spend), only 41 percent of consumers were able to link Mayhem to Allstate (Pollack, 2011). Compared to Progressive’s Flo and Geico’s iconic gecko who were both highly linked to their respective brands, it seems Mayhem’s greatest disaster is not effectively connecting consumers to Allstate. However, if you’re a marketer who needs to see an immediate response from your marketing spend, if you employ proven performance marketing tactics (like those found within the Audiolytics™ framework), even a cheesy computer-generated spokesman and a retired NBA player can make your company a household name.

*Due to restricted distribution of trade secrets, we cannot share all 71 sub-components but can reference select optimization levers based on the 9 Key Components of Audiolytics™: Setup, Value Proposition, Positioning, Demonstration, Substantiation, Offer, Scarcity, Path, and Execution.

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