I noticed a squib in the paper over the weekend that caught my eye. Seems like the Gekko is about to overtake Allstate as Number 2 in auto insurance. This struck me for a couple of reasons. 1) I would have thought Gekko was Number 1 (but of course it’s the one zillion year old State Farm) and 2) I would have thought that the Gekko had demolished Allstate aeons ago. This despite the Mayhem Man and the might of Allstate. So I paid some attention to the car insurance ad wars of the weekend and learned something else. The paper had pitted Mayhem Man against the Gekko as the duelling critters of insurance, but in fact, Mayhem Man isn’t the car insurance campaign for Allstate. It’s something else, another campaign where people mouth the deep voice of the actor who is the spokesperson for Allstate — a lame, forced, invisible series of rather unfunny commercials. And a light went off in my sleep deprived brain. Of course — Mayhem ISN’T the voice of Allstate Car Insurance. No wonder the Gekko is cleaning its clock. The message is muddled. Even the newspaper put Mayhem Man forward as the image of Allstate. If only Allstate would.
Which is a long way of saying — in communications it’s all about the story. Alignment, truth, veracity, the product — most of that stuff doesn’t mean anything. The best critter and the best story wins out in our cluttered, addled minds.
Or as Jimmy Stewart said in John Ford’s classic film, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” — “when the truth disagrees with the legend — print the legend.”
Or, to put that into an advertising context, forgive me if I repeat (and no doubt mangle) my second favorite Howard Gossage quote: “The purpose of advertising is not to sell your client’s products, it’s to scare the hell out of your client’s copywriters.”
Happy Monday to you.