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Cute or Covered? - Which do you Want?


In the past few months our televisions have been filled with hours of clever and funny car insurance commercial. We've laughed at the disgusted Geico caveman who just wants some respect. We've become fond of Flo, who perkily leads new customers through the mythical Progressive showroom. Allstate has personified mayhem, with an actor who portrays everything from heavy snow breaking through a roof to broken vehicle flags that fly in the face of other drivers on the highway. All of these commercials are fun to watch, but very few of them focus on the important aspects of car insurance coverage.

The Purpose Behind the Cuteness

Insurance companies know that long conversations about deductibles, coverage options, and pricing schemes are boring. They only have 60 seconds to catch your attention and help you remember their name during a television commercial. That's why they work to make their commercials as quirky and memorable as possible. They aren't concerned with whether their insurance is best for your needs, they just want to make sure that you remember their name when you think of car insurance.

Fun Breeds Familiarity

This approach to insurance advertising really works. If you hear the name of an insurance company and immediately think of their TV character, you will probably feel as if you know the company better than other companies without popular commercials. Whether it makes sense or not, many customers feel safer working with companies that have familiar spokespeople or clever ad campaigns. When faced with a choice between a company that is less familiar and a company that has a highly visible ad campaign, a customer almost always chooses the company they have heard of. Let's face it, Flo seems like a really nice person who has our best interest at heart - so that must mean that the people who work for Progressive are just as nice and caring, right? The Geico Gecko seems like a practical, personable little guy, so his insurance company seems practical and personable too.

Familiarity has been used by advertising agencies for decades. Politicians understand that just getting their name seen by more people will give them an advantage over their opponents, regardless of their political platform. Mr. Whipple probably sold quite a lot of Charmin based on his challenge to refrain from squeezing the package. It is a consumer's responsibility to look past the spokesman and evaluate the product based on its real value.

Reaching the Right Demographic

Companies like State Farm and Geico have worked hard to reach as many people as possible through different types of ad campaigns that may not tell the consumer much more than the insurance company's name. Geico released two separate campaigns that appealed to three separate demographics last year. The cavemen grabbed the attention of younger viewers - especially young men. The gecko appealed to an older demographic that enjoyed the cuteness but wanted to feel like their insurance company was more intelligent. State Farm uses a magically appearing agent to catch the attention of the younger set, while their mayhem personified campaign reflects the concerns of older adults.

The creativity behind these ad campaigns is admirable. They manage to take the topic of car insurance and make it something that we almost look forward to hearing about on a commercial break. It's fun to think about buying a plastic gecko bobble-head doll to mount in your car. The entertainment is harmless unless you let it be the sole factor that leads you to choose one insurance company over another. If you want to compare companies based on commercials, you should compare the ad agencies that developed the ideas and content of the commercials rather than the insurance companies.

The Real World Intrudes

Unfortunately, none of the clever and cute spokesmen (or lizards) are going to be available when you need to file a claim. State Farm customers who call their agents offices from the scene of an accident will be more likely to reach a computerized operating system than to see an agent magically appear on the scene. When you need to work with your car insurance agency after an accident, you need to know that you have the right coverage and what to do next.

The truth is, there is no substitute for doing the boring research that needs to be done to find the right insurance policy for your needs. You have to spend some time comparing quotes and policy features so that you and your family are protected from the high costs that can be associated with damage or injury related to a car accident. Sometimes an insurance company that you have never heard of will offer the best coverage choice at the best rate. In fact, insurance companies that do not spend so much on advertising can probably devote more of their resources toward their customers.

Enjoy Commercials, But Think Before You Buy Coverage

It is important to realize that car insurance TV commercials are really just entertainment. They don't give you any solid way to compare one insurance company with another. All they offer is the name of their company wrapped in a fun new package. There's nothing wrong with enjoying these clever commercials based on their wittiness and the way they can present the unexpected in just 30 or 60 seconds. Insurance commercials are harmless as long as you remember to do your research and really compare insurance company policies and prices before you make a purchase.

Buying the right insurance coverage for your vehicle can save you time and money. It can also provide you with peace of mind because you can rest assured that you are protected with the best policy at the best price. You can still put the gecko bobble-head doll on your dashboard, no matter whose insurance policy you purchase. Really, you get the best of both worlds. You get to enjoy the fun and clever insurance commercials from every agency that creates them while you carry the right insurance coverage for your real world needs.