Is your endorser prone to bad behavior? Get disgrace insurance

By David Kiefaber on Thu Nov 18 2010

TigerWoodsAd

As companies rely more and more on celebrity endorsers, the risk of their spokespeople going spectacularly off the rails becomes more prominent. And while celebrity train wrecks make great headlines, they're terrible for PR. But since it's apparently impossible to pull back on the constant media scrutiny that celebrities live under, vulnerable brands are literally insuring themselves against bad publicity with "disgrace insurance." Now, disgrace claims have existed for a long time, but they have a much higher corporate profile now, thanks to guys like Tiger Woods and their very public misbehavior. For brand marketers, disgrace insurance policies cover the costs of having to restart an ad campaign, money that would otherwise be lost when the company has to jettison its star player. And according to Lloyd's, premiums fluctuate based on how likely the celebrity is to cause trouble. Not every company sees the need for disgrace insurance (some brands, like Gillette, kept Tiger Woods, if you recall), but there are plenty that do, and they're screwing up a teachable moment here. Expecting rich, attractive people who live in a world of yes to never misbehave is unrealistic, and the pressure this places on people who already have privacy issues is absurd. This could, and should, lead into a discussion about how unhinged Western celebrity culture has become, and that maybe we shouldn't make famous people the focal point of everything we consume.

Geico considers insurance implications of 'Three Stooges' scene

By Todd Wasserman on Wed Nov 17 2010

Stooges

Never let it be said that Geico lacks a sense of humor. While other brands are still wondering what to write on their Facebook pages, Geico has produced an Onion-esque bit of social-media noodling that's likely to keep its fans happy until the next caveman ad. On the company's blog, a Fredricksburg, Va.-based Geico claims adjuster named Brenda Shaw considers the policy implications of "Brideless Groom," a Three Stooges short. Would Geico cover all the stuff that gets broken in the skit? What about the harm done to each Stooge? "The bureau drawer that Moe smashed over Larry's head, that's an intentional act," Shaw writes. "But one of the fine distinctions would be, did Moe intend to cause injury or was the action taken for a different purpose?" Ah, we could ponder such things all day, but what about Shemp and his new wife—what should they do? Buy life insurance, of course. Next, a Pfizer rep will outline what sorts of psychotropic drugs the Stooges would need to chill out a bit.

Scottrade's anti-spokesman Chad Ridgeway now playing games

By Todd Wasserman on Thu Jul 22 2010

From Charlie Tuna to Mr. Whipple, there's nothing new about nerdy anti-heros in commercials. But think about it—when was the last time you saw a new iteration of this character? All of which makes Scottrade's achievement notable. Earlier this year, the company and agency Gearon Hoffman introduced Chad Ridgeway, a doofy, curly-headed broker at an unnamed Scottrade competitor who still plays racquetball, of all things, and forgets his clients' names. Chad is now the subject of a New Yorker Caption Contest-like promo in which consumers are invited to provide a setup to this Ridgeway punch line: "So, the duck says my dad's a state trooper." The winner gets $500. To get an idea of how this works, check out an earlier iteration of the contest: To Chad's kicker "Don't worry, it's a rental," Vince McHugh of Henrico, Va., provided the setup: "I said that looks like a subpoena on your window." No, I don't get it, either, but then, I also play racquetball, so maybe I'm out of touch, too.

Insurance companies race to help you prepare for Hurricane Alex

Posted on Wed Jun 30 2010

Catastrophe

The advent of social media has prompted a new style of communication between brands and consumers: pre-emptive communication. If you've friended Progressive, State Farm or Allstate on Facebook, for instance, you will have received tips from them in your Facebook stream on how to prepare for Hurricane Alex. I'll have to assume Allstate's five tips aren't rated in order of importance (No. 1: Check your insurance coverage. No. 5: Plan your evacuation.) Progressive, meanwhile, earns points for focusing on safety (as does State Farm) but loses a couple for alternating its dire warning with a prompt to see a new ad starring spokeswoman Flo and Pickles, a dog that does tricks.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Abraham Lincoln still tops among your dead-president endorsers

Posted on Tue Jun 29 2010

The hottest star in commercials these days is our 16th president. We're used to seeing Abe Lincoln in Presidents Day sales, but now he's positively everywhere. The latest example is Geico, which follows the question "Can switching to Geico really save you 15 percent or more?" with "Was Abe Lincoln honest?" The answer, as we soon see, is that he was so honest, he couldn't even bat away the question "Does this make me look fat?" from his wife. In addition to the Geico ad, a green Abe is also starring in an ad for TD Bank. Lincoln also used to appear in ads with a beaver for the sleep drug Rozerem. And strangest of all (yes, stranger even than that Rozerem ad), he appears in a zombified state in an ad for Alabama Congressional candidate Rick Barber comparing the healthcare bill to slavery. On the eve of our nation's birthday, I, like Barber, feel I have to speak out: Hey, advertisers, leave Abe alone. He's not the freakin' Burger King.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Jon Stewart looks at mascots gone bad after firing of Geico guy

Posted on Wed Apr 28 2010

Without Jon Stewart's brand of in-depth investigation, I never would've known that the Pillsbury Doughboy engaged in some questionable behavior with a strudel or that the helping hand from Hamburger Helper had a Nazi past. On Stewart's late-night Comedy Central series, The Daily Show, those and other secrets came out during a segment on the voice actor from Geico who lost his job recently after questioning the mental capacity of conservative FreedomWorks members. Stewart figured it was as good a time as any to look at spokescharacters (purportedly) going off the rails. There was that Tony the Tiger mauling incident, and the Michelin man's sex trafficking charges. (Great mug shot!) Check out the clip, really, it'll explain everything.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Dennis Haysbert now doing Allstate commercials in Spanish, too

Posted on Thu Apr 22 2010

Actor Dennis Haysbert has one of the best voices in the business—an attribute that hasn't escaped the attention of Allstate. For a few years, the insurer has tapped Haysbert's sonorous vocal stylings for its TV ads, which depict the actor as the voice of reason in an uncertain world. This month, for the first time, Haysbert is also delivering those lines—at least the tagline—in Spanish. According to an Allstate rep, the use of a mainstream, non-Spanish-speaking actor for ads en español is highly unusual. In fact, the company's PR department has been trying to find other instances as it mulls making a "first in the industry" claim. In previous ads, Allstate has used a "voice of God" Spanish announcer as a voiceover, but the rep said Haysbert tracked much better with Spanish-speaking consumers even if his command of the language is a bit shaky. Said the rep, a native Spanish speaker: "You can hear his accent."

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

From 'Airplane' to Geico, Peter Graves was a master of deadpan

Posted on Tue Mar 16 2010

Sure, plenty of baby boomers knew Peter Graves best for Mission: Impossible, the long-running TV series about spies and spooks and such. But so many of us cherished him as the dry-quip-a-minute pilot, Capt. Clarence Oveur, in the Airplane flicks, the guy who couldn't keep his stream-of-consciousness questions to himself. That young passenger visiting the cockpit had no idea what hit him when Oveur asked, "Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?" and "Ever been in a Turkish prison?" Graves, who died in L.A. on Sunday at age 83, also lent some nonsensical gravitas to the Geico ad posted here, and since we feel compelled to dredge up every star's commercial turn when they die, here you go.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Progressive's spokeswoman Flo needs a sidekick. Will it be you?

Posted on Wed Feb 3 2010

Progressive Insurance is looking for a sidekick for Flo, its long-running spokeswoman (and sex symbol to some). Because this is 2010, Progressive is asking the unwashed masses to explain, in a minute or so on video, why they should get the nod. So far, there are no clear winners among the 500-plus submissions, though a woman named Lytle (shown here) is leading with more than a quarter-million views over at the HelpFlo.com site. (Lytle explains that she could sell to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, has good dance moves and could be a backup singer.) My personal favorite, though, is a woman named Sara Morabi, who received the comment, "This girl is so cute...I like how she lights up the screen," leading Morabi to counter: "Thanks for the above comment, mom. Never leave your computer running when your mom is around."

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Measly little life-insurance policies look pretty good these days

Posted on Thu Jan 7 2010

Nylife

Near the point in It's a Wonderful Life where George Bailey reaches his personal nadir, the evil Mr. Potter taunts him that his life insurance policy would provide his family with more money than he would. "You're worth more dead than alive!" he sneers. Now, a campaign from New York Life is making a similar point. A new push from the insurer, from Taxi's New York office, compares the ROI on life insurance (including dividends) over the past 10 years to what you'd have made in the market. See one of the ads here. It's no secret that many are calling the last decade "The Zeros" for its lack of economic growth, but apparently it was a great time to be dead.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman


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