Best and Worst Insurance Commercials: Ranking the Big 3

I’ve been admittedly pleased to finally have my company competing in the advertising campaigns on the television commercial battlefield and with advertisements that actually get our name in front of potential customers with humor and branding and not weird existential art-festival stuff.  Complain all you want about commercials Mr. and Ms. Consumer, but they work and marketing interviews with consumers confirm this.

Setting that aside here are the winners and losers from the same companies in their most recent advertisement campaigns currently showing on the air.


Best Commercial: Mayhem (Filthy Rich Executive)

Why is this a good commercial?  I have yet to see a Mayhem commercial that wasn’t realistic to how a claim happens and what is implied to be covered or more important NOT covered if you haven’t actually discussed with a licensed insurance representative your needed coverages. Bravo, Allstate, you appear to have an ACTUAL insurance consultant with the team that writes commercials to make sure they depict accurately how insurance works and that writing team STILL manages to add humor to this series to brand the name Allstate to the consumer without giving them the misconception of how that insurance may work in the future.  Truly, this is a rare gem in an insurance marketing campaign to have both humor and reality of how insurance works mixed together.

This ‘Filthy Rich Executive’ commercial makes me cheer for this advent of reality/actuality melded with insurance commercial because it’s not about “If you rear end someone do you have coverage?”  Well unless you let your policy lapse even the most cut-rate insurance carrier is going to cover the damage to the OTHER car (that is what liability insurance is for) if you don’t have ‘full coverage’ meaning a collision deductible than YOUR car isn’t covered– tough nuggets.  No, the magic in this commercial lies in the subtly of do you have ENOUGH insurance to cover Filthy Rich Executive’s $90K European Sedan… well, do you?  The tech support operator at 1-888-fast-quote isn’t going to explain that to you.

Scroll to the bottom if you want my tips on what to review.

Worst Commercial: ‘Are you in Good Hands?/ That’s Allstate’s Stand’ commercials (any of them with Dennis Haysbert).

Why is this a bad commercial? For all the reasons I applaud their Mayhem commercials they flop with these. 1) They’re boring, sorry there Dennis I know you’re a quality actor picking up some extra income doing these commercials, so we’ll just blame the writers. 2) They imply in their ambiguous statements or as seen in the commercial link ‘questions to the magic 8-ball’ like most other insurance carriers DON’T offer the same coverages or that Allstate wouldn’t have the SAME limitations in their policy. (I am speaking from general experience and not as a representative of Allstate)

The ‘friend borrowing your car’ question is called a ‘Permissive Driver’ claim and most carriers cover that unless the carrier can prove fraud or a misrepresentation in some way.  Like, your friend who borrowed the car actually lives with you and when you signed up for your insurance coverage you were specifically asked to name other drivers in your household and you didn’t disclose your friend.  That’s called misrepresentation or omitting something that the carrier would have rated for/collected premium on. This makes claims people cranky and depending on the severity of the over-site, the state statutes/laws, the amount of evidence against you and the anal retentiveness vs. laxitive-esque attitude of your state’s Dept. of Insurance your claim could be denied or it could be reformed and you/your friend would owe back-premium to the date of the glaring over-sight was made before the carrier will pay your claim.

‘Will your rates go up if you have an accident?’ Bet your ass they will.  Even if they don’t go up the first time you have a claim (maybe you purchased a little extra clause/endorsement for that) if you were found at-fault for the accident and your rates do not go up on the following renewal you can be nearly guaranteed they’ll increase after the second accident.  Also, in most states, if you have too many claims you could be non-renewed for frequency or coverages revoked if you file too many of one kind of claim (numerous towing claims for example).

They’re trying to say in this commercial that like in the Mayhem commercials an Allstate agent will guide you right.  That may still be true, but the implications in the commercial are Allstate won’t do that to you / you’ll have coverages you may not have with other carriers… which is crap.

State Farm

Best Commercial: Jake from State Farm (official name “State of Unrest”)

Why is this a good commercial?  It demonstrates that apparently State Farm now has call-centers that you can call anytime to get a quote while mentioning they have your typical discount (boring).  You don’t have to wait for the guy or gal down the street to turn on the lights and open their doors to shop for insurance.

The implications that this husband is in his darkened living room speaking to someone who may be a 1-900-have-your-credit-card-ready woman of questionable desirability only to be busted by his wife for actually talking to Jake from State Farm is pretty hilarious to me.

Best lines, “What are you wearing ‘Jake from State Farm’?”

… “Uh, Khakis.”

“She sounds hideous!”

“Well, she’s a guy, so…”

Worst Commercial: Jerry the ex-State Farm insured probably now with Geico (Official name: State of Regret)

Why is this a bad commercial? Speaking as someone who has been in the insurance industry 10 years now and NOT as an employee of State Farm I can assure you based on my industry experience State Farm doesn’t want Jerry’s dumb ass covered with them.  Jessica, with State Farm (what is up with all the ‘J’ names?), specifically asks him if his car is up a pole again which clues us in that this is a recurring issue with Jerry.

Jerry was costing State Farm money every time he defies physics by trying to teach his car acrobatics.  When consumers cost insurance carriers money insurance carriers raise rates; not just for the naughty people, but for the group as a whole if their pricing and structures are taking too big of a hit.  It’s called the Law of Large Numbers and it is what insurance rates are based on:  If we have enough people insured, the impact to the group as a whole when there is a claim filed will be a burden best born by many instead of the few and that by insuring more people there will be less impact to any one person with a rate increase/claim has to be covered. The technical jargon reads like this: A statistical axiom which states that the larger the number of exposure units independently exposed to loss, the greater the probability that actual loss experience will equal expected loss experience. In some instances, insurers can virtually eliminate their risk of loss by securing a large enough number of units in an insured group.

But, when you get people like Jerry with more claims than what is typical for most people or unexpected catastrophic claims (tornadoes/blizzards) that starts to tip the scales on the delicate balancing act of premium taken in vs. claims paid out.  He’s the ‘cooler’ coming in and throwing people’s good vibe off at the craps table and messing with the actuaries and dudes crunching how many dollars a company has to take in premium in order to have money to pay out claims, pay employees and other obligations and still post a profit… because we’re not a charity people, we make money because that’s our job

So, State Farm doesn’t want Jerry. He is screwing with their bottom line, State Farm customers don’t want Jerry because he is directly contributing to any rate increases they themselves incur when they have not had an accident or citation themselves, and Jessica doesn’t want Jerry back because as I would assume State Farm has a bonus structures as many other carriers do for their agents who are profitable with the book of business they manage; Jerry would mess with Jessica’s chances for a profit bonus depending on the size of her own agency.

Farmers Insurance

Best Commercial: Cat Burglar– Farmers University with Professor Burke

Why is this a good commercial? It’s straight forward and simple; Agents should know how the bad-guys do things so they can advise their clients on what to do to protect their stuff.  Many of the commercials in this chain are about how Farmers is educating its agents to be the agent you need to advise you properly regarding your insurance needs and on how to prevent claims from happening in the first place.  We call this “loss mitigation” it’s what you do to prevent claims from happening or once they do happen you take additional steps to prevent further damage from occurring.

Humor for this commercial comes in on many levels. First, you have the gag of the group of trainee agents are introduced to the cat-burglar, they look back to the Professor, and when they look back again the yard is full of stuff and the guy is wearing a wedding dress all while being restrained on the dolly.  Second, you have the joke of the nay-sayer postulating how good could the guy possibly be and then discovers his watch is missing in the same move. Third, and most important for me, is what I believe to be the subtle nod to Hannibal Lecter from the original Silence of the Lambs.  If you’ll recall while Hannibal is strapped to a similar dolly device while in full restraints including his muzzle while Dr. Chilton rambles he some how steals his ball-point pen and is able to use it later to pick his hand-cuffs and break free during his ‘second meal’ of the evening.  This commercial totally reminds me of that so I give it bonus points.

Worst Commercial: The Auto-boat-home or Autoboatome Farmers University Commercial.

That image is from MafiaWars Wiki because I could not find that commercial anywhere any more.  I know it existed because it annoyed me greatly and obviously it existed or there wouldn’t be a Farmers logo endorsed Frankenstein-mobile designed by Zenga (creators of Facebook games like Mafia Wars and Farmville).  Maybe they took it down for the same reasons I hate the commercial.

What the commercial showed were the ‘agents’ that we’re growing to know and love walking into Professor Burke’s class to learn about insurance.  My memory is a little fuzzy, but basically they end up being presented with this whirling monstrosity of helicopter rotors attached to a house, built on a boat, with wheels and told as agents with Farmers they need to know how this would be covered.

Why is this a bad commercial? Because it wouldn’t be covered. For a 1,000 different reasons your basic personal lines insurance provider isn’t going to have the ability to rate for, nor the desire to, cover something that appears to be the bastard child of ABC’s Home Make-Over. Again, it implies there is a desire to insure or provide coverage where there is not one, and not even a little bit like the other commercials by other carriers mentioned above.

I’m sure there are ‘secondary markets’ for this kind of jazz, and when in doubt find an agent who is appointed with Lloyd’s of London because those crazy people across the pond will cover almost anything whether remotely tangible.

For example, from How Stuff Works, 9 Odd Things Insured by Lloyd’s of London:

1: Taste buds

In 1957, world-famous food critic Egon Ronay wrote and published the first edition of the Egon Ronay Guide to British Eateries. Because his endorsement could make or break a restaurant, Ronay insured his taste buds for $400,000.

2: Legs

In the 1940s, executives at 20th Century Fox had the legs of actress Betty Grable insured for $1 million each. After taking out the policies, Grable probably wished she had added a rider to protect her from injury while the insurance agents fought over who would inspect her when making a claim.

3: Mustache

While playing on Australia’s national cricket team from 1985 to 1994, Merv Hughes took out an estimated $370,000 policy on his trademark walrus mustache, which, combined with his 6’4″ physique and outstanding playing ability, made him one of the most recognized cricketers in the world.

4: Hands

Representing the Cheerio Yo-Yo Company of Canada, 13-year-old Harvey Lowe won the 1932 World Yo-Yo championships in London and toured Europe from 1932 to 1935. He even taught Edward VIII, the Prince of Wales, how to yo-yo. Lowe was so valuable to Cheerio that the company insured his hands for $150,000!

5: Teeth

From 1967 to 1992, British comedian and singer Ken Dodd was in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s longest joke-telling session — 1,500 jokes in three and a half hours. Dodd has sold more than 100 million comedy records and is famous for his frizzy hair, ever-present feather duster, and extremely large buckteeth. His teeth are so important to his act that Dodd had them insured for $7.4 million, surely making his insurance agent grin.

6: Dance Legs

During the height of his career, Michael Flatley — star of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance — insured his legs for an unbelievable $47 million. Before becoming the world’s most famous Irish step dancer, the Chicago native trained as a boxer and won the Golden Gloves Championship in 1975, undoubtedly dazzling his opponents with some extremely fast and fancy footwork.

7: Comedy Routine

The famous comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello seemed to work extremely well together, especially in their famous “Who’s on First?” routine. But to protect against a career-ending argument, they took out a $250,000 insurance policy over a five-year period. After more than 20 years together, the team split up in 1957 — not due to a disagreement, but because the Internal Revenue Service got them for back taxes, which forced them to sell many of their assets, including the rights to their many films.

8: Voice

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bruce Springsteen is known to his fans as “The Boss,” but Springsteen knows that he could be demoted to part-time status with one case of laryngitis. That’s why in the 1980s he insured his famous gravelly voice for $6 million. Rod Stewart has also insured his throat and Bob Dylan his vocal cords to protect themselves from that inevitable day when they stop blowin’ in the wind.

9: Fingers

Before rock ‘n’ roll, a popular type of music in England in the 1950s was skiffle, a type of folk music with a jazz and blues influence played on washboards, jugs, kazoos, and cigar-box fiddles. It was so big at the time that a washboard player named Chas McDevitt tried to protect his career by insuring his fingers for $9,300. It didn’t do him much good because skiffle was replaced by rock ‘n’ roll, washboards by washing machines, and McDevitt by McCartney.

Strange, no Auto-Boat-Homes with propellers. 🙂

The other carriers of Progressive and Geico have been running their commercial campaigns for much longer and have their groove-thing figured out.  Now Nationwide is trying to get in on the action with their version of Flo by giving us some Ichabod Crane looking dude with a blue phone.  Frankly, I’m glad the Caveman commercials with Geico have run their course, but can you believe at its zenith Geico was in talks of getting the Caveman their own TV show (I think they filmed the pilot)? YIKES!

While you see Progressive, Geico, and Nationwide ALL the time on the TV they actually have a small percentage of the market share. But, that is changing and it’s all through the power of advertising!  Again, you can deny it, but you have to KNOW about a company before you can ask them for a quote and buy their policy.  There could be any number of factors that influence your to final decision to purchase that policy with that carrier, but if you have never heard of the carrier before you’re most likely not going to seek them out to get a quote in the first place.

This little propaganda styled poster from under-estimates how often people quote/change insurance carriers in my opinion.

But, it is pretty spot-on with the belief they’re ‘all the same.’  The contracts are formatted to be similar, there will be little nuances from carrier to carrier, but within the same state (eg. comparing a Oregon insurance policy from one carrier with another Oregon insurance policy with another carrier) formatting and coverages are going to be very similar.  Why?  Two reasons: 1) Insurance policy contracts are built on a skeleton form from ISO and they already have certain provisions and provisos because of that skeleton framework. 2) Competition.  You don’t want to cover stuff that your competitors are NOT covering because that means you could have losses they’re not going to experience which means you’ll have to take rate increases to premium they won’t have to.

Again, I’m boiling it down A LOT, but that is the nitty-gritty gist.  They’re all playing poker.  Sometimes you’ll even see them advertise that if you bring in your current policy back (declarations page) you’ll get a discount or some sort of incentive from that competing carrier.  They want to see the cards the other person is holding and they’re using the customer as a go-between.

The best advise I can give you is find a licensed agent and no matter how BORING you think it will be, ask them questions and have them show it to you LITERALLY IN WRITING where in the policy there’s coverage for that.  Keep in mind that if the contract is ‘Open Perils’ it usually means it is covered UNLESS Excluded so there will be a specific sections listing the things NOT covered rather than all the things that ARE covered.  Know what each of the coverages on your policy mean and what they do.  Do not assume something is covered when a generic blanket term is tossed out like “You have Full Coverage on your Car.” That means different things to different people.  It could mean you have coverage for YOUR vehicle if you are in an accident or something happens to it unexpectedly (Deer runs in front of you driving down the road and you make Deer tar-tar with your grill or vandals smash in your windows), but that doesn’t automatically mean you have towing/roadside assistance or glass coverage or rental car coverage for those extra expenses.

Lastly, as I mentioned above I would provide my short and dirty break-down on liability coverage and whether or not you have enough.

Do you know how much you could lose in the event of a catastrophic loss?  If your liability limits don’t cover the amount of PERSONAL ASSETS at your disposal than the answer is ‘NO’ (in most states).

  • Let us say you have a 401K or other pension plan.
  • Let us say you have a savings account that actually has money in it; you didn’t just open the account to get the promotional toaster.
  • Let us say you have other assets such as equity in your home.

In most events, if you have liability limits on your auto policy that are less than the total amount in those above categories you have yourself UNDER INSURED!  So, do some math and believe me I’m keeping this simple (I’m not even talking about having your wages garnished); Add up your liquid assets above if that sum total number is greater than the any of the limits found on your liability coverage (whether total be more than the limit on your auto or your home/condo/town-home/renters policy) you have a problem.

Most auto policies read in split format:  BI/PD = ##/###/##  for example you may 25/50/25 liability limits.  That means you ONLY have $25K per person injured in an accident when you are deemed at-fault (or in some states you can be determined partially at-fault and your policy will pay out your ‘portion’ of the total calculated value of the claim), but that policy will MAX at $50K of bodily injury you cause other persons in that accident.  So, basically you could hurt 2 people for $25K a pop each, or you could hurt 3 people for $16,666 a piece, or you could hurt 4 people for $12,500 a piece or any combination of person to dollar value injury ratio until you max the coverage of $50K for the total incident or total injury incurred by one person exceeds the $25K.  Once a limit is maxed on pay-out the insurance company runs out of ink for the checks in a hurry and if you’ve got assets and  someone still has outstanding medical costs from the accident they can now file a civil suit against you.

That remaining # number value on the end is your Property Damage coverage which the good folks at Allstate are alluding to in the Mayhem Filthy Rich Executive commercial.  In that commercial example if you were carrying state minimum liability limits (to the best of my knowledge no state in the Union has a minimum property damage limit of $90K) you would NOT have enough to pay for Filthy Rich Executives car.  In my example above I used $25K for PD coverage.  Therefore if you have $25K of Property Damage coverage you would be $65K short for Filthy Rich Executive’s car (assuming the depreciation would still place it at $90K value as most auto claims are settled on an actual cash value basis and not a replacement cost basis; though there are endorsements out in the market you can purchase to remove that problem).  If you have assets as mentioned above you can pretty much bet your soon to be shirtless-backside that, just as portrayed in the Allstate commercial, Filthy Rich Executive is going to have some Filthy Lawyers to Bloodhound your assets and then sue you to make up the difference of the $65K in needed coin that your insurance policy didn’t have to cover you.

They like your peaches, now they want to shake your tree…

PS: Your liability limit on your home owners policy does NOT stack on your auto insurance so don’t look at your two different policy types and add them together to get your total liability coverage.  Claims regarding autos are strictly covered under auto policies, claims covered by home-owners insurance are strictly covered there, they don’t get to lend a hand to the policy that got short-sheeted.  If you need more coverage to stack to cover your at-risk assets you have to buy an UMBRELLA policy which sits over the top of both your auto and your home liability limits (like an umbrella, duh) and when you max out the underlying liability limit on your home or your auto during that horrific claim than Umbrella steps in and covers the difference (again subject to limitations on the policy).

Also, common misconception, people try to cheat by carrying lower-liability limits on vehicles they don’t drive as often.  This is Russian-roulette bull-shit and you are a moron if you do this.  The other party and their lawyers don’t give a rat’s ass that you were driving your beater to the dump to get rid of that box spring mattress when you ran over little Johnny who chased his ball into the street.  Your ass is on the menu if you do that. Your LIABILITY exposure is the same regardless of how often you drive the vehicle. Don’t be stupid.


Certainly not least of all, in MOST states and I won’t presume all, your SPOUSE is a risk to your liability just as much as you are– just like with credit scoring.  You are a legal entity ‘as if made into one flesh’ when it comes to liability.  Now this isn’t the same when you are divorced and there’s the squabbling of who brought what to the arrangement, blah, blah, blah… basically if your spouse killed Johnny in the street driving the beater pick-up on the way to the dump and you’re the one bringing home the bacon with the 401K/retirement plan and your paycheck is what puts the money in the savings account it’s all loot for the pillaging come lawsuit time. Likewise, until your divorce is final don’t be dropping your spouse from your policy unless you have proof they have their own coverages set up elsewhere and have reviewed that with your attorney– because until that is final separation any acts where they incur a claim could have repercussions on you regarding liability limits and assets.

Got questions/comments/corrections?  Feel free to comment below and I’ll address or make changes as needed.  Thank you. 😀


5 responses to “Best and Worst Insurance Commercials: Ranking the Big 3

    • Thank you, Fally. It was good to see you today. I’m glad that you enjoyed this article. Just a little irritating, to me anyway, to see how they skew the business for the sake of generating a ‘lead’ from a consumer.

  1. Can I simply say what a comfort to uncover a
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