In Allstate’s new commercials, there’s no trace of Mayhem.
Droga5, Allstate’s new lead creative agency, launched its first campaign in September. But there was something lacking.
While longstanding spokesman Dennis Haysbert gives his voice to the amusing advertisements that demonstrate the insurer’s ability to safeguard consumers, one familiar face is missing. According to ad-tracking site iSpot, Mayhem, the decade-old character portrayed by actor Dean Winters, hasn’t appeared in an Allstate TV ad since early June.
Winters was described as a “wonderful partner” by Allstate officials earlier this year, but they would not disclose if he is gone for good—or just for 2020. Haysbert has a history of reappearing in the brand’s commercials or merely providing voiceover work, as seen in the current campaign. Mayhem, on the other hand, was the creation of Leo Burnett, which is no longer on Allstate’s roster.
The troublemaker joins the likes of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben as characters that have been proposed this year. Surprisingly, Saturday Night Live did a routine with Dave Chappelle on the dismissals of racist characters and laughed about Haysbert’s ability to continue as Allstate’s pitchman despite being a Black actor.
With Car Insurance as the Hero, Allstate adds a Villain.
THE execs at Allstate, dubbed “the ‘good hands’ guys” after their famous tagline, are putting a bad cop to their car that advertises a good officer.
Dean Winters, who has played dark characters in shows including “Oz,” “Rescue Me,” and “30 Rock,” will portray Mayhem in an Allstate commercial, personifying the dangers that drivers face, such as crashes and storm damage. The teaser spots, which debuted on Friday, are meant to generate interest in the campaign, which is expected to begin in early July.
Since 2003, another Allstate pitchman, actor Dennis Haysbert, has appeared in the company’s commercials. Mr. Winters appears on camera in the teaser advertisements without Mr. Haysbert, although Mr. Haysbert is not visible in an early version of a campaign spot; his voice is heard at the conclusion.
Mr. Winters, according to Allstate officials, is not replacing Mr. Haysbert, who is a “solid asset” for the firm and will continue to be its major spokesman, appearing in new advertising later this summer. The Winters advertisements are being created by the same firm that created the Haysbert advertising, Leo Burnett in Chicago, which is part of the Publicis Groupe.
According to executives from Burnett and Allstate, the Mayhem campaign is intended to build a second front for Allstate in the insurance battles, allowing it to fight more successfully with price-oriented competitors like Geico.
“During the recession, the extreme focus on pricing worked effectively,” said Mark LaNeve, chief marketing officer of the Allstate Corporation in Northbrook, Ill. “However, we are feeling a return to value along the lines of ‘The firm with whom you do business matters; you get what you pay for.'”
Consumer views are shifting in the same way, according to other marketers.
“Value isn’t solely dependent on absolute price for many individuals,” said Brad Casper, president, and chief executive of the Henkel Consumer Goods division, which includes home and personal care goods. “A low price isn’t always a good deal if the quality and performance fall short of their expectations.”
Mr. Haysbert appears in some advertising that is critical of Allstate’s rivals, but he is most known for uplifting visual ads with messages like “That’s our stand.” For example, during the Winter Olympics, Mr. Haysbert concluded advertisements that quoted Roosevelt’s 1933 inauguration speech, proclaiming, “Uncertainty will not control our lives when we put our lives in excellent hands.”
Mr. LaNeve predicted that the Mayhem campaign would be “disruptive.” “It’s important for you to try new things.”
He went on to say that the new persona “tested extremely well across a variety of audiences, including a young target.”
To stand out among the clutter, Allstate has joined a long list of insurers who are launching multiple campaigns at the same time. State Farm, for example, just launched a new ad starring Eddie Matos that takes a feistier approach to price than its previous commercials with the tagline “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”
Geico is simultaneously conducting a half-dozen ads, including advertisements featuring geckos, cavemen, a “googly eyes” figure, and celebrities such as Charlie Daniels.
Mr. LaNeve explained that there are multiple processes for each message and that adding Mr. Haysbert’s voice at the end of the Mayhem advertisements will “help brand the advertising as Allstate.”
The Mayhem campaign is part of Mr. LaNeve’s attempts to reposition Allstate as a provider of protection as well as insurance. Mr. LaNeve joined Allstate from General Motors. Mr. Haysbert emphasizes this point at the end of the tough ad, saying, “Dollar for dollar, nobody protects you against mayhem like Allstate.”
Mayhem is a throwback to a common commercial character from the past: the bad person who causes difficulties that the marketed product fixes.
Mr. Coffee Nerves, a malicious figure in General Foods advertising for their Postum grain beverage, represented the troubles created by caffeine in coffee. Rival instances include the Noid in Domino’s Pizza commercials, who represented how difficult it was to order from other chains, and the Spotmaker, who created havoc inside dishwashers until Calgonite expelled him.
In a teaser ad, Mr. Winters, who plays Mayhem, says, “I’m the key against your side door.” “I’m a free-roaming deer.” The words “Mayhem is coming” emerge on the screen. “Do you think you’re in good hands?”
Mayhem adds, “I’m the dog that ate your back seat,” and then spits out a piece of foam in a second teaser. Mayhem claims, “I’m a regular adolescent girl,” in a third teaser in which he drives a pink sport utility vehicle, then glances down at a mobile device, smashes into a car, tosses the gadget, and drives away.
Jeanie Caggiano, executive vice president and executive creative director at Burnett, remarked, “A good villain is a great thing.” “Mayhem is a fantastic way to enter the competition, something you can’t do if you’re Dennis.”
“If Dennis represents Allstate and all that is protection,” she explained, “Mayhem represents the polar opposite, unpredictability.” “With a lovely smile, this guy is dangerous, and he epitomizes everything Allstate protects you from.”
“With Mayhem, we’re fighting back and saying, ‘Wait a minute, depending on what sort of mayhem you meet, you can find yourself cheaped out from the coverage you might need,'” Ms. Caggiano explained. “You’ll spend a few dollars extra, but you’ll receive greater coverage.”
If consumers believe that the popular Mr. Haysbert is being fired, the Mayhem campaign might generate mayhem for Allstate. The Mayhem campaign was characterized as “replacing commercials that starred Dennis Haysbert” in a Friday item on Mr. Winters in The New York Post.
“We’re not dumping” Mr. Haysbert, according to Mr. LaNeve, who also said, “We’ll continue to run some current Dennis work and do some new work with Dennis on the dollar-for-dollar value positioning.”
“Good advertising welcomes you inside the brand,” Ms. Caggiano remarked. Mayhem does it one way and Dennis does it another.”
Allstate aims to “significantly” increase ad expenditure for the remainder of the year as the Mayhem campaign gets underway, according to Mr. LaNeve. According to WPP’s Kantar Media subsidiary, its ad expenditure in the first quarter was $85.9 million, up 23.7 percent from $69.4 million at the same time a year ago.