Anybody remember the early days of television, when we had only three channels and we watched everything, including the commercials? The remote control in those days was, “Son, go change the channel to CBS.”
Those were the dark ages before digital video recording (VCR), so we couldn’t pause the picture and then fast forward through the commercials. So, we watched the TV ads, and some of them were more entertaining than the programs.
Who recalls the Energizer Bunny, Tony the Tiger and Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?
In recent times, the silly entertaining ads have become those by insurance companies, of all things, not cereals, toys or cleaning products.
“Insurance is not exciting or something people want to think about,” explained one insurance executives. Past insurance ads usually talked about how they were on the spot when fire, storms and earthquakes hit. Then, some creative ad people took over and viewers started to notice the new entertaining commercials.
Many people say it all started with the American Family Life Assurance Company (AFLAC) that wanted to get some market recognition. A room full of ad writers were sitting around, brainstorming on how they could come up with anything to help people remember the acronym, AFLAC.
According to the story, somebody commented, “It sounds like a duck quacking.” That resulted in the white AFLAC duck, which is one of the most recognized TV advertising symbols.
The Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO) about the same time was having a similar problem. Thus was born the GEICO lizard, the gecko, which has a similar sounding name. From that ad character recognition, GEICO has grown to one of the top auto insurers,
Another animal making commercials is Limu, the emu, The Limu name is derived from the company’s acronym for Liberty Mutual Insurance. The bird is a mixture of real-life emu and animation.
State Farm started the singing insurance commercial. If you had an accident, all you had to do is sing, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” and your State Farm agent would magically appear on the scene. I hit a deer a few years ago and messed up my car. I tried singing the State Farm song, but the agent didn’t show up. I finally gave up and called Jake.
Singing has become popular in insurance ads recently. Motorcycle riders insured by GEICO like to sing, “Build Me Up Buttercup.” Of course, they forget where they’re singing it, and mess up their baseball base lining job or they get the entire bike shop maintenance crew singing with them.
Even more interesting, auto owners with Allstate start singing the Old Pet Shop Boys’ song, “Opportunities,” and soon, the hood ornament starts harmonizing with them.
The General has recently started running commercials, explaining their company is real, after viewers were not taking seriously their commercials with the animated general and basketball star, Shaquille O’Neal.
Farmers Insurance entertains by recreating some of the strange accidents they’ve had to cover, such as convertibles being filled with concrete, drivers crashing into their own garage or parade clowns in funny cars causing mayhem.
Personally, I’m tired of seeing Flo and Jamie in the Progressive Insurance ads, but I have to admit, I think of them when I see a Progressive sign. And, their motaur guy, half human and half motorcycle, has to be the weirdest character of them all.
Winston Jones is a former journalist living in Carrollton.