Who knew car insurance could be so funny?
We get it. With topics like claims, coverages, and collisions, car insurance doesn’t exactly scream “exciting.”
But when you have the nation’s largest insurers spending billions of dollars on sleek, highly-produced campaigns, we’re finding that even the mundane can be spun into pure comedic gold.
And it’s working.
In fact, experts with TransUnion are linking a recent uptick in personal auto insurance sales to record-high levels of ad spending, which reached a staggering $7.5 billion dollars in 2018.
Without a doubt, it’s a competitive market that’s caused insurers to up their commercial game — and viewers are taking notice.
The Top 15 Car Insurance Commercials of the Year
What it all boils down to is this — car insurance is a necessity, and car insurance is highly profitable.
So much so, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners reports that private passenger auto insurers wrote more direct premiums in 2018 than ever before — to the tune of over $244 billion.
It’s no wonder insurers are pulling out all of the stops. Whether it’s through famous (or even infamous) celebrity spokespeople, quirky characters, or computer-generated animals, car insurance providers are vying for your attention with commercials that are more entertaining than ever.
It’s why we’re ranking the 15 funniest car insurance commercials of the year.
You’ll also want to stick around as we dig deeper into our analysis of the marketing and advertising trends driving these big-dollar investments.
But without further ado, here’s a look at our top picks:
#15 – Allstate, “Car Thief” with Mayhem
“Oh, hey Jeff. I’m a car thief!”
And with those seven words, we’re launched into a chaotic scene of shattered glass, damaged property, and all-out humor.
Meet Mayhem. A fictional character personified by actor Dean Winters, Allstate’s Mayhem was first introduced to viewers in 2010 and has been bringing dry humor to many of life’s not-so-pleasant car insurance dilemmas.
But underscoring Mayhem’s over-the-top (and hilarious) physical antics in “Car Thief” is the reality of a serious crime.
With the Federal Bureau of Investigation reporting nearly 750,000 cars stolen in 2018, Allstate calls attention to the fact that not having the proper coverage can lead to high out-of-pocket expenses in the instance your car is stolen.
Borrowing the words of Mayhem, “it can feel like getting robbed twice.”
Hence, we have an important and memorable reminder of seeking out additional coverage – namely, comprehensive car insurance – to ensure that drivers can avoid financial mayhem in the face of a worst-case scenario.
#14 – State Farm, “Kim’s Discount (Drive Safe & Save)”
The message is simple — “Don’t mess with my discount!”
In this State Farm Auto Insurance spot, we see Kim go to great lengths to ensure that she maintains good behavior behind the wheel, even if that means easing on the gas as she’s going into labor. At the heart of the funny ad is the insurer’s Drive Safe & Save program, a form of the increasingly popular Usage-Based Insurance (UBI).
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners describes UBI as a type of insurance focused on tracking mileage and driving behaviors, such as speeding and hard braking. Drivers’ behaviors are most often monitored through an in-vehicle device or app, as shown in this commercial. As drivers demonstrate safe driving habits, they can become eligible for discounts.
In State Farm’s case, the company’s advertised discount is up to 30 percent. When you consider the prospect of big savings, we can’t blame Kim for being so vigilant about her driving.
#13 – Progressive, “The Corning”
Our next pick features a big personality known by a single name: Flo.
Without a doubt, the Progressive car insurance character has made a lasting mark in pop culture since actress Stephanie Courtney brought the overly-excited cashier to life in 2008. In just over a decade, Flo has:
- Starred in over 100 commercials
- Has become a mainstay in Halloween costumes, and
- Has amassed a solid following (check out her Twitter account)
In watching “The Corning,” we’re reminded of Flo’s mass appeal and Courtney’s deft comedic timing. Borrowing from classic horror movies, the viewer is given a light-hearted (and slightly creepy) reminder of the benefits of insuring your car, and the financial perks of bundling car and home insurance policies.
#12 – Liberty Mutual, “LiMu Emu & Doug”
For Liberty Mutual, 2019 was the year for debuting a bold new campaign in the form of LiMu Emu and Doug. The eccentric crime-fighting time team brings a unique twist to the classic buddy-cop duo, whose aim is to protect drivers from overpaying for their car insurance.
In “Dealership,” viewers are invited to a humorous 30-second spot full of fun throwbacks to classic TV and film — from a punchy theme song, to slow-motion running scenes, and to Doug’s vintage car and clothing.
According to a company press release, LiMu emu comes to viewers thanks to computer-generated imagery (CGI) and a “proprietary fur and feather system.” The ultimate goal? To use humor to draw customers to the company’s claim of offering customizable car insurance.
To pursue such an out-of-the-box of strategy is a necessity that Eric Anderson, CEO and Organizational Development Manager of ElMejorTrato.com, says is beneficial if insurers want to stand apart.
“Many of the services that insurance companies offer are very similar to each other, so companies need to figure out how to stick out from the rest through creative advertising campaigns,” says Anderson. “However, humor is not enough. Advertisements must be relevant in order to be effective.”
#11 – The General, “Field Goal”
When it comes to The General’s “Field Goal,” it’s one embarrassing miss after another. And that’s a good thing.
The 30-second spot opens with football tryouts in session, and a kicker at who just can’t seem to make a field goal. About halfway through the ad, we hear an announcer:
“Everyone makes mistakes. But what if life was as forgiving as The General?”
Rather than reject the less-than-stellar kicker, the coach confidently announces, “We’ll take him!”
The General prides itself in providing insurance for high-risk drivers, including those who have had lapsed coverage or serious traffic violations and convictions.
And if you know anything about high-risk drivers, finding providers willing to insure them can be extremely difficult — to the point that many companies will outright refuse to provide them coverage.
It’s why at the end of the day, we can’t think of a funnier or more effective way for The General to get its message across.
#10 – Farmers, “Rock and Wreck”
Let’s face it, when it comes to collisions and car accidents, anything can happen. Even in the midst of the most unpredictable and unconventional scenarios, drivers want to be sure that their cars are covered, no matter what.
It’s a theme that continues to drive Farmers Auto Insurance’s long-running “Hall of Claims” campaign. In “Rock and Wreck” we see a driver rock out so hard to the company’s jingle that he confuses his gas pedal with the brake — promptly plowing into a building.
Whether it’s an enthusiastic rocker or a car landing on a roof, these Hall of Claims commercials (most of which include Oscar-winning actor J.K. Simmons) are modeled after real-life Farmers customer experiences. Through the ads, viewers are left with the impression that the insurer has the experience and credibility to handle anything.
It’s a tactic Laura Gonzalez, Marketing Manager at AutoNation of Las Vegas, says is shrewd.
“It leaves viewers thinking, ‘Wow they covered that? They must be a great insurance provider.’ At least that’s the hope,” says Gonzalez.
#9 – State Farm, “Helium”
In keeping with the vein of the unusual, we bring you State Farm’s “Helium.” What may initially appear to be a serious ad quickly morphs into something far funnier — and it’s all thanks to an overturned helium truck.
But it’s clear this commercial isn’t just about laughs.
It’s about reminding viewers of the emergency services auto insurers like State Farm offer, including towing and roadside assistance. And where being stranded with a disabled vehicle is no laughing matter, we’d say the insurer has done a pretty good job of using humor to highlight the importance of being prepared for any emergency — with or without helium.
#8 – Geico, “What’s The Gecko’s Name?”
Let’s be honest. To forget the name of a longtime coworker or colleague can be downright embarrassing. But in Geico’s “What’s the Gecko’s Name?”, what most would see as a painfully awkward scenario is nothing short of laughable.
Geico’s gecko has graced TV screens for more than 20 years, without a doubt helping the insurer become a household name.
In fact, the long-time campaign has been so successful, Geico’s gecko is listed among Crestline Custom Promotional Products’ most recognizable brand mascots in America — third only to Starbucks’ Mermaid and KFC’s Colonel Sanders.
So, what’s to account for the gecko’s popularity? His British accent? His persuasive salesman abilities? Whatever the reason, his appeal is working, as Geico continues to be one of the top insurers in the country. And if starting in over 150 commercials is any indicator, we can be sure that Geico’s gecko isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
#7 – Esurance, “Safe Driver”
In 2018, Esurance sought to widen its appeal by introducing its first-ever on-camera spokesperson, actor Dennis Quaid. In this “Safe Driver” spot, Quaid simultaneously pokes fun at Hollywood productions, while promoting potential discounts through the company’s DriveSense app.
The Allstate-owned brand ultimately aims to increase its appeal among Millennials and Gen X customers. A smart move when you consider that, according to TransUnion,
Millennials are a key demographic in the car insurance market, having greatly contributed to an increase in personal auto insurance sales in 2018.
More than half a dozen spots later, Quaid is still going strong in Esurance’s “Surprisingly Painless” campaign. With his relaxed attitude and likable demeanor, we think he’s a good and relatable fit for Esurance and consumers.
#6 – Liberty Insurance, “Bad Job”
Aside from the quirky LiMu Emu and Doug, Liberty Mutual is also relying on its long-running “Truth Tellers” campaign to draw consumers to the company.
Set against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty, the “Truth Tellers” ads have gradually stepped deeper into more comedic territory. Case in point — the 30-second “Bad Job.”
As implied by the name, the “star” of this commercial is a bad actor doing a terrible job of nailing his lines. But we have to admit that in the end, his performance is terribly funny.
A bit unconventional? Yes. But according to Liberty’s Vice President of Brand and Integrated Marketing, the risk is paying off. In an interview with Ad Week, Jena Lebel shares that the revamped “Truth Tellers” campaign, along with Limu Emu and Doug, has increased the company’s ad awareness by 25 percent.
No doubt the kind of results that could result in a big payoff for the insurer.
#5 – Progressive, “School of Hard Lefts”
Perhaps what’s even more impressive than the success of Progressive’s popular Flo, is the insurer’s ability to produce a second and equally-likable character named Jamie.
Played by actor and writer Jim Cashman, Jamie holds his own as an enthusiastic car insurance rep eager to see drivers save money. In “School of Hard Lefts,” we see Jamie hilariously attempt to take on a “tough-guy” persona in his sell of Snapshot, the company’s usage-based insurance program.
Jamie’s bad-boy act only goes so far, but the impression is long-lasting. But keep in mind, Progressive’s extensive network of characters and ads doesn’t come cheap.
According to Statista, Progressive spent $1.05 billion in advertising in 2018. The insurer came second only to Geico’s marketing spend of $1.55 billion.
With heavy-hitting investments like that, we wholeheartedly expect to see Progressive introduce us to even more creative and engaging characters down the road.
#4 – Allstate, “St. Bernard” with Mayhem and Tina Fey
It appears Mayhem has met his match. And her name is Tina Fey.
In State Farm’s “St. Bernard,” we see Dean Winter’s Mayhem absolutely nail the part of a distracting pet riding with his owner. But rather than cave into her dog’s antics, Fey stays focused — all to ensure she remains eligible for the company’s DriveWise safe driving discount.
Even in light of Mayhem and Fey’s overly-dramatized, “don’t try this at home” approach, the commercial still makes a good case for the dangers of distracted driving.
A study from Volvo Car USA confirms that allowing pets to remain unrestrained in moving vehicles not only leads to higher levels of driver stress, but it also results in a significant increase in unsafe driving behaviors.
Moral of the story? Drive safe, and secure your pets — even if that means Mayhem needs to buckle up.
#3, #2 and #1 (tie) – Direct Auto, “Get Direct & Get Going” with Johnny Manziel, Fat Joe, and Tonya Harding
For our top pick, we’re bringing you a Direct Auto Insurance campaign so amusing – and dare we say, edgy – we couldn’t just stop at one commercial. We’re bringing you three.
They’re part of a new “Get Direct and Get Going” campaign that focuses on the importance of giving drivers a second chance, regardless of their past.
With spots that feature former NFL quarterback and headline-grabbing Johnny Manziel, the ever-controversial former figure skater Tonya Harding, and financially-embattled rapper Fat Joe, the rebrand hopes to connect viewers to celebrities who have made mistakes — just like them.
And we have to admit, we like it. Especially in the way each spokesperson manages to poke fun at their personal missteps.
“Seventy percent of millennials trust the recommendations of influencers and celebrities, so a celebrity spokesperson could have a huge impact on a company’s brand (and) reputation,” says Sarah Donawerth, Social Media and Content Manager with getcarro.com.
And by working with Manziel, Harding, and Fat Joe, Direct Auto has hit a home run in identifying three high-profile figures who are recognizable across many generations – not just millennials.
It appears the tactics are working — “Get Direct and Get Going” with Manziel and Harding have already garnered well over 1 million views on YouTube.
Only time will tell whether star power will pay off in more exposure, and more customers, for Direct Auto.
Do car insurance commercials really work?
Those who question the relevance of TV commercials in this digital day and age need to remember this — TV is still king, and car insurance companies looking to make a name for themselves have a captive audience.
“Even though the Internet has received all the attention in recent years, television remains on top,” says Eric Anderson, CEO & Organizational Development Manager of ElMejorTrato.com. “Television advertising can reach a larger number of people, unlike the smaller audiences that newspapers or radio stations can reach.”
But the case for television advertising doesn’t stop there. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical American viewer spends nearly three hours a day watching television. Additionally,
An Adobe study reveals that U.S. TV buyers continue to rank TV as the top tool in which companies have the “ability to build an emotional connection with a brand.”
But don’t think that car insurers are completely ignoring the digital marketing scene. In fact, an Adobe survey predicts that online and mobile media advertising across all industries will grow to $11.52 billion by 2020. No doubt, car insurers have embraced this trend, as it isn’t difficult to spot their ads across the web, social media, and YouTube.
To shed more light on this growing trend, Tim Brown, Owner and CEO of Hook Agency, shares that:
- Sixty percent of Americans prefer online video, and
- Half of all viewers ages 32 and younger will not be subscribed to a paid TV service by 2025
“If people aren’t entertained they can just flip over to their smartphone and entertain themselves until their show comes back on,” says Brown. “This being the case, I do still see TV commercials as a worthwhile investment. If you can set your commercial apart from the rest and entertain your audience, that can go a long way towards winning over customers.”
– Is big spending paying off for car insurance companies?
Just how much are auto insurers investing in ads? Hundreds of thousands, and even billions of dollars.
Here’s a look at the industry’s top spenders in 2018, according to Statista:
|Insurance Provider||Ad Spend (2018)|
|State Farm||$629 million|
|Liberty Mutual||$297 million|
|The General||$137 million|
|Farmers Insurance||$129 million|
Meredith Kokos, Chief Marketing Officer of Clearsurance, an insurance ratings and reviews platform for consumers, notes that there’s a clear correlation between the industry’s top spenders and the industry’s top performers.
“The top five auto insurance companies in TV spending in 2018 – Geico, Progressive, State Farm, Liberty Mutual, and Allstate – make up five of the top six companies in market share,” says Kokos.
But the big question: do these big ad spends translate into customer loyalty? Kokos says according to customer feedback on Clearsurance, not necessarily:
|Insurance company||Ad spend (2018)||Policyholders |
planning to stay
|State Farm||$629 million||82%|
|Liberty Mutual||$297 million||71%|
|The General||$137 million||72%|
|Farmers Insurance||$129 million||75%|
In comparing these ad spends to Clearsurance customer feedback, we see that the percentage of customers willing to renew with these providers tends to fall within the 70 percent range – with the exception of USAA and State Farm.
“It seems there is no direct correlation between ad spend and the responses provided by Clearsurance consumer reviews,” says Kokos. “The average percentage of car insurance policyholders saying they will stay with the company at next renewal on Clearsurance is 79 percent.”
Car Insurance Commercials: The Bottom Line
Without a doubt, these car insurance commercials are having an impact. And it’s not just in the laughs, or the memorable moments.
Through creative and often unconventional advertising, auto insurers are shining a light on the importance of drivers having solid and reliable car insurance coverage in place.
What’s also obvious is that these companies are fighting hard to make you their next customer. But at the end of the day, a funny commercial isn’t enough. It’s all about your budget, your priorities, and your peace of mind.
Our advice? Don’t just choose an auto insurance provider based solely on a few laughs. Choose a company by doing your research.
You can begin your journey in finding the best car insurance rates today. Just enter your ZIP code into our free car insurance comparison tool to start.
In our extensive research of the auto insurance industry’s best commercials, analysts viewed dozens of ads across a wide range of providers. To narrow down our top 15, humor wasn’t enough. We sought commercials that met the following criteria (in order of importance):
- Consumer Benefit: Commercials that pointed consumers to beneficial coverage options, programs, or a legitimate potential for savings. This also included an appeal to specific driver groups, such as those categorized as high-risk.
- Creativity: Commercials that created memorable and impactful moments for the consumer.
- Purposeful Branding: Commercials that didn’t simply place a spokesperson, celebrity, mascot, or character on the screen. Rather, these representatives were effectively utilized to convey the insurer’s core values and brand.
- High Production Value: Commercials that were well-produced and appropriate for a variety of audiences and age groups.
- Viewership: Recognizing that YouTube doesn’t paint the full picture of an ad’s success, we still made note of viewership specific to the insurer’s channel. That being said, the average viewership among our top 15 was just under 1.1 million. As of writing, six have exceeded 700,000 views, and three have passed the million mark.