Commercial Break: All-State Mixes Fantasy and Reality   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 28 October 2012
Program: Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide
Channel: H2
Conglomerates: Hearst Corporation & Disney

Advertiser: Allstate Auto Insurance
Owned By: Allstate
Pitch: Our insurance is so good you’ll dance!*  (*If we hire you to.)

Television commercials are rife with actors pretending to be “real customers”.  There’s no mystery as to why: paid actors are prettier than real customers, they speak with more conviction than real customers, and they’ll read whatever script you put in front of them so long as you pay scale and offer lunch.  Best of all, since lying in commercials is legal so long as you put the requisite “we’re lying” statement in small, barely legible print, you can call as many script reading actors “real customers” as you’d like. 

It goes almost without saying that actors with small font disclaimers is the route chosen by most advertisers, while some (more often local) spots actually pluck regular people off the street and give them a few seconds on television.  What makes this spot for Allstate so unusual is that it uses both.

We start with this guy, who is, rather surprisingly, not pitching Hair Club for Men:

Spokeman-Bot 2.2

With hair this good, you can wear a picnic blanket as a shirt and no one will notice.

This perfectly generic spokesdude begins the ad by telling you about the various incredible wonders of Allstate insurance:

Think you can’t get great auto insurance coverage and a great rate?  Think again.

To prove his point, the commercial moves swiftly to the paid-actors-dancing-around-like-morons portion of our show:

Mary switched to Allstate, got an agent, and saved three-hundred and twenty six dollars on her car insurance.


‘Mary’, shown here dancing in a car free oblivion.

Allstate goes the usual disclaimer one better by saying not just that this is a “Dramatization”, but that it’s a “Dramatization based on real customer savings and experiences.”  Well then, that sounds much more credible, because adding details is never the hallmark of a lie.  Spokesdude continues:

John switched, got an agent, and saved two-hundred and sixty-three dollars. 


You just want me to dance around?  Can you at least put some music on?  Whatever, I got a callback from that sitcom about the haunted Barcalounger.

Like ‘Mary’, John’s painfully awkward dance is a “Dramatization based on real customer savings and experiences”, though one doubts that many “real customers” have ever spontaneously begun dancing in the Allstate office.  Neither of them is really a customer, so it doesn’t really matter.  Here’s where things get discombobulated and weird though:

Actual Customer0

Wait, what?


Actual Customer1


So after we go through quite a few paid actors (more than just dancing they also get to hold up their low bills and stuff like that), we get not one, but two “Actual Allstate Customer”s.  Even with the real people, they’re still forced to disclose that “Average Annual Savings” was a lot less than these two got, but there’s no fine print that says that Michael or Maria are actors, or that their cases were faked for the ad. 

I suppose Allstate’s going for the best of both worlds here.  They want to be associated with the lean, trim young dancing actors, but they also want you to know that real people, who look decidedly more worn and aged, trust them as well.  The main effect would seem to be rather the opposite.  By going with the bullshit and then trying to leaven it with real people, they just raise the question as to who those dancing idiots were earlier in the commercial. 

In general, it’s best to pick a bullshit depth and stick with it.  After all, you’re hardly likely to trust someone who says, “I’m telling you the truth now, but I was lying earlier.” 

Posted October 31, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

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