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State Farm

2 October 2009 One Comment


State Farm.

Their familiar tagline from whence I was a kid, “And like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Would ring in my head whenever I would see an ad, billboard, piece of junkmail, and especially my very own State Farm homeowners insurance policy.

For decades, they would self proclaim the importance of “being there” for their customers.

For not turning a blind eye.

For catching them when they’ve fallen.

As they say, “like a good neighbor.”

Then along comes hurricane season in Florida.

Hundred mile an hour plus winds and water thrashing any home in its way.

Imagine families in neighborhoods facing the prospect of becoming homeless.

Families who may need a good neighbor to be there for them.

Many of those families probably needing one good neighbor in particular…who will happen to not be there for them.

Yes, that’s right, State Farm Insurance will be out of the home owners insurance business in Florida within two years leaving all those neighbors out in the cold and damp.

State Farm announced sometime last year that it would pull out of the Florida property insurance market within two years because state regulators rejected a 47% rate increase it said it needed to offset hurricane risks.

So, without the increase in rates, they would not be there for anyone counting on them.

They would not be there to help families get back on their feet.

I don’t know what kind of “good neighbor” they think they are, but I’ll take a bad neighbor who steals my lawnmower and screws my wife but at least is there, than a good neighbor who skips town leaving me without them there.

This is the insurance business.

This is their chosen field of expertise.

It’s not like they were forced to cover policy holders or force fed their tagline.

They know what they are dealing with when they open insurance policies to people in Florida…that’s why they go there, because they are gambling on making TONS of money on a state prone to hurricanes.

Hell, the University of Miami is the University of Miami Hurricanes!

It’s a risk State Farm was willing to take.

That is, until the hurricanes came and came and came.

Which, I guess, was State Farm’s cue to go and go and go.

“Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” gives a bad name to good neighbors.

But what really gets me most (if you haven’t noticed by now), is that State Farm has the audacity to run an updated brand campaign entitled, “Being There.”

You’ve seen it; the big manifesto brand spot, that you could see being sold to the client as a mood video with images of actual good neighbors being there for friends, relatives, and yes, neighbors.

Mixed with shots of State Farm agents helping crying victims.

There’s even a shot of a dad pushing his wheelchair kid in a marching band.

These images are supposed to represent what State Farm means by “Being there.”

Of course, they forget to drop in the shots of an empty office…or a dial tone…or a tumbleweed blowing through a vacant part of town where their offices once were (or will be).

I can see the client asking their agency for a damage control piece.

And one would’ve made sense to come out and say how “…although the core of our very being is about “being there”, we unfortunately cannot be there for everyone, everywhere the way we would like to be….”

But no.

They went the complete opposite.

They went for “Screw it.  We’re not going to be there for Florida, but who cares. Let’s control the damage of pulling out by hammering home a message that is completely opposite of what we just announced! That’ll show ‘em!”

Of course, I have no idea of how this campaign actually came to be, but all I see is a concept that fly in the face of what they’re doing in the real world.  It’s not like saying something tastes better when it actually tastes the same (or worse), but telling people the benefits of ‘being there’ when they violate the very standards of what that means (by their definition, no less) by not being there!

Remember that State Farm homeowner’s insurance policy I mentioned I had?

Well, I switched to Allstate.

My premium is a bit higher, but I feel better being with them.

(that is, until they back out on their promise of “You’re in good hands with Allstate”, but so far, their  hands seem ok)

Why hasn’t there been a bigger stink about this?

Why hasn’t there been more harsh stares and furrowed brows directed at State Farm?

And on top of that all, I have to hear baby Michael Jackson singing what State Farm is trying to say (or lie) about being there by using the Jackson Five’s “I’ll be there.”

Which of course, for State Farm’s purposes should’ve been re-arranged, re-recorded, and re-titled “I’ll be there.  Except if you live in Florida, which in that case, I won’t be anywhere near there.”

- Mark Abellera

One Comment »

  • Craig Cooper said:

    And one wonders why advertising has such a bad reputation.

    I once worked on a gum account that wanted to promote the “fact” that of people who chewed their gum versus those who didn’t, those who did had 62% fewer cavities than those who did not.

    This number came from a study.

    When we pressed them for more information, it turned out the study was done in some third world country that has probably never heard of toothpaste.

    We ended up doing a spot that didn’t make any such spurious claims and it turned out to be the best performing spot they’d ever had.

    There was no nonsense; it was just a charming bit of creative.

    BTW, ever notice that Apple never claims that Macs don’t crash?

    They just say that PCs do.

    That’s advertising genius. Evil, but genius all the same.

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