Esurance Commercials take on GEICO

May 15, 2014

GEICO’s tagline is by now probably quite familiar: “Fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.”  When it first debuted, it was probably groundbreaking – fifteen percent is a lot of money, and fifteen minutes isn’t a lot of time.  But we live in the future now, where we expect things to happen almost-instantaneously, and fifteen minutes feels like a lifetime.

Esurance’s Commercials Undercuts GEICO’s Promise

Esurance has caught on to this flaw in GEICO’s advertising campaign (and so had GEICO, it seems; fewer and fewer of their ads feature it with each passing month).  Their most recent series of advertisements, since the demise of Erin Esurance, features folks of a certain age who are stuck in the past, unaware of the new cultural norms, or generally clueless. It’s a clever play on the idea that GEICO’s fifteen minutes is outdated and becoming irrelevant, and it’s funny.

“I Unfriend You!”

In one Esurance commercial, Beatrice posts her vacation photos to her physical wall in her home, and invites her friends to come look at them.  She also brags that she saved 15% on car insurance.  When her more tech-savvy friend calls her out, Beatrice points to her and says “I unfriend you!”  Of course, this is wrong.  It’s so wrong that it almost detracts from the point of the ad – that there are better ways to save.

Be Kind, Rewind

In another Esurance TV ad, Larry tells the camera confidently that he saves time by not rewinding DVDs before returning them to…Redbox, I guess, since there really isn’t anywhere you can rent DVDs anymore.  Anyway, he says that taking the time to rewind DVDs is crazy – and the implication, of course, is that so is taking 15 minutes to get a car insurance quote.

Do Esurance’s Ads Work?

Esurance’s new commercials are clever, endearing, and memorable – when I mention them around the office everyone knows what I’m talking about, and a friend has even taken to shouting at others “I unfriend you” when he is displeased with them.  (I kind of wish I was making that second thing up.)  They target one of their biggest competitors (Esurance’s parent company, Allstate, is on the front lines with GEICO in terms of market share and advertising budget), and they do it by going after the ubiquitous catch phrase.  If you’re paying attention to the clever, almost-subtle play, it’s a great dig at a competitor and boost for the company.

However, as I mentioned before, this is the future – people are watching TV with their phones or tablets in their hands while they’re making dinner or herding children, and if they’re even watching the commercials, they aren’t always paying close attention.  An advertisement that calls out another company’s slogan is running the risk of putting that other company in the mind of viewers.  The first time I saw the new Esurance ad, I thought it was for GEICO – and I work in insurance marketing, so I’m paying pretty close attention to this sort of thing.

The goal of most insurance companies’ advertising is to get people to think about insurance even if they aren’t thinking about insurance, on the hope that when the time comes to actually think about insurance, they’ll choose the company they’ve been thinking about.  However, a potential customer listening with half an ear might hear the wrong catchphrase from these advertisements.  Apparently this is a risk Esurance decided they were willing to take: lampooning the competition was worth the risk of throwing them free business.  And at the end of the day, the new Esurance commercials are pretty funny, and in the auto insurance industry, that seems to be what really matters.

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