Allstate abandons staid image with brash, new ad campaign from Leo Burnett.

June 30, 2010

This from the blog, These Are Their Stories:

Dean Winters, who appeared on Law & Order SVU as Detective Brian Cassidy during the first half of the first season, is now the star of some new offbeat commercials for Allstate. He is portraying a character called “Mayhem” who represents all the different kinds of damage that can affect drivers.

Last year, in this blog I praised Allstate’s long-running ad campaign featuring actor, Dennis Haybert. His patriarchal and steadying demeanor was just right for the huge insurance agency, particularly during times of economic turmoil.

While the world is far from economically recovered, Allstate and its agency, Leo Burnett created a new and very different ad campaign. First impression: It’s fantastic. From the exquisitely biting acting chops of its protagonist to the bodacious music track, these deft executions are handled with gritty style and panache. Trust me folks, this is not your father’s Allstate. Mayhem is personified by Winters as a mischievous devil, quite willing to do harm. He is a “deer in your headlights.” A teen-aged driver. A fallen tree in a windstorm. When the character wreaks havoc on your car, home or person he laughs gleefully, sinfully. Like I said, not your father’s Allstate. Wisely, Haybert’s steadying voice-over is retained at the end, taking the edge off the campaign.

Unlike previous work, the campaign no longer speaks prosaically about safety, security and protection. Instead “Mayhem” is taking on Geico and other discount insurers. If you worry about saving “up to 15% on auto insurance” you’re likely not covered for certain kinds of mayhem. It’s a radical departure for the brand. But instead of fighting value with value (thank God), Allstate and Leo Burnett created this.

In some respects, “Mayhem” is also the debut creative of Leo Burnett’s new Chief Creative Officer, Susan Credle. As many of you know, after a lengthy search, Leo Burnett plucked Credle from BBDO in New York. There she’d created the mischievous M & M’s campaign for Mars, among many others.

In Cannes, I spoke with Credle at length about Allstate’s new campaign. At the time I had not seen a single piece of communication. But Susan was very excited about it. Having seen the spots I can see why.

Follow me on Twitter

My novel on Amazon

Submit to the Rogue\'s Gallery

35 Responses to “Allstate abandons staid image with brash, new ad campaign from Leo Burnett.”

  1. Jeanie Caggiano said

    Gee, thanks! Just proof that the people who know the brand best can also take it in a fresh direction–the client doesn’t always need to bring in another agency. Credit to Britt Nolan, CD, and Matt Miller & Chris Rodriguez, CW/AD. And, of course, Leo’s own Ms. Credle.

  2. Jeanie Caggiano said

    Also left out agency producer: Bryan Litman.
    Director: Phil Morrison.
    Music, believe it or not, is needle drop that Bryan found. Will find out exactly what it is–people have been asking.

  3. Jeanie Caggiano said

    Music from Extreme Music. “Stakeout” is the track.

  4. i adore these dark edgy spots. credle showing her mettle BIG TIME!

    sensational job jeanie – congrats to all of you!

  5. Bobby Mugabe said

    i am dropping these clowns for my homeowners’ insurance.,….
    i like staid….for extreme i go to eminem concerts with jay-z…..for homowners’ and car insurance i want someone who will pay the bills…

  6. Roswell Thomas said

    When you play off consumer fear in your advertisements, you make a huge impact but open yourself up to a lot of harsh criticism (the most notorious example that comes to mind is the “Daisy Girl” commercial the Democrats ran in 1964). I think the sense of humor in these advertisements will help them avoid allegations of fear mongering, though. Personifying “mayhem” has an inherent potential for humor, and Mr. Winters does a fabulous job playing off that, particularly in “Teen Driver” and especially “Puppy.” These ads make me scared about my car insurance (well, they would if I had a car) but they also make me laugh, and that keeps me from feeling manipulated.

    • SRP said


      The deft execution does, in my opinion, manage the edginess and humor just right. There is a freshness to this work, which is stunning.


      Normally, I agree with you: “staid sells insurance.” This campaign is the proverbial exception to that rule.

  7. Brook Boley said

    It’s good stuff. Phenomenal execution.

    Here my 21st Century campaign launched early this June. More damage to come.

  8. jack jackman said

    Nicely produced, but the very same campaign was done by Fallon for Travelers a few years back with a guy playing risk. And it was done in a terrific spot by a French agency where a guy played the wind. Way to be environmental and recycle Leo.

    • SRP said


      I remember that campaign. You’re right. Very similar. Yet I like this one a lot better. Good enough reason to excuse ‘borrowed interest?’

  9. Bill O'Really said

    borrowed interest? how about simple plagerism?

    • SRP said


      My father reviled plagiarism in this business but I wonder. Some time imitation and emulation really are forms of flattery. Besides personifying virtue or sin is as old as the Gods…and I don’t just mean the Gods of Advertising!

  10. Bill O'Really said

    One insurance company creates an ad in which a guy playing RISK runs around doing random things. A few years later another insurance company creates an ad in which a guy named MAYHEM runs around doing random things? C’mon Steff, could they be any closer? The only difference is Burnett went for a more menacing tone. The Fallon spot was award-winning and very well known. Not to mention the French commercial which is the best of the lot. I don’t know, there’s a point where you say, nice idea, but it’s been done and it’s been done in our very category. I know there are no new ideas, but that doesn’t mean we have to resort to this kind of thing.

    • SRP said

      You make a compelling argument. You know, last year I named the Amex “Faces” campaign my favorite of all year only to discover it was a direct lift from both commercial and artist.

  11. Jk said

    Post Travelers Risk campaign and this side by side. If Burnett knew about it, shame. If they didn’t, even more shame. It won awards in the same category. Next they can do subservient chicken for mcdonalds…hey they just did it for their Cannes stunt.

  12. Congrats to all involved on this work. Special props to my buddy Britt for again delivering brilliance with a great team. The music reminds me of “the pink room” by Angelo Baldamente from Twin Peaks… Very cool! Can’t wait to see an online manifestation of Mayhem!

  13. Bill O'Really said

    Joe, congrats for appropriating someone else’s idea? What kind of world do you live in? In the real world this is the same as someone stealing your car and then driving it around and showing it off to people. Jk is right, Burnett took subservient chicken and turned it into Dave on Demand. Problem is Dave on Demand sucked. Now they lift a Fallon concept. The marketing folks at Allstate should know they’re paying good money to someone who can’t even come up with something original. Shame on Burnett, Credle, etc.

    • SRP said

      Now, now Bill. You’re getting ornery 😉
      You have a point of view…maybe even a point.
      But Joe is entitled to his.

  14. Bill O'Really said

    Ad person 1: Have you seen the new Burnett Allstate campaign?

    Ad person 2: Yeah, at Fallon three years ago.

  15. keith richards once told me after he paid KD lang rather than change a song he didn’t realize he had riffed from her “everything is a borrowed thought. i may hear something on the radio and dont even realize it sticks. i borrow from chuck, johnson, mozart and ramirez. they borrowed from everyone before them. once i write it, it stinks of keith”.

    just sayin’ …..

  16. Bill O'Really said

    There’s borrowed and then there’s, well, then there’s this. You can’t tell me that among all the people who had to approve this campaign and all the people who saw it as it was progressing through the agency, no one said “Hey, you know this is a lot like the “Risk” guy that Fallon did. Or the “Wind” guy from France. Ad folks are notorious for watching what other agencies do. Especially when it’s in the very same category. Burnett made a conscious decision to go with someone else’s idea. Not cool at all.

  17. Well, since I know them all personally. And I know their character, the similarity isn’t by design. Either way, the work made me smile when I first saw it. The film craft is as good as it can get, I applaud that. It’s also good to see good work coming out of Chicago. Lots of reasons to be positive. that’s all.

  18. Bill O'Really said

    Good work from Chicago is great to see. But not when it was good work from Minneapolis first. That doesn’t help Chicago one bit.

  19. Insurance is about the fear of the unknown, mehyem, that ensues and loss of love and liquidity. That’s why I buy a house and a gun.

    It’s not about saving on car insurance – it’s about insurance saving what’s left of your road carcass with a credit card, And frankly I could give a damn about being sideswiped by a hot pink chick drinking a too big mocha latte when when sideswipes my car. I worry about losing my mind because I can’t control life and that’s why I buy insurance. Save you a buck? ehh. Rebate good drivers, ehh. ‘GET IN YOUR FACE AND SHOW THAT “IT’S COMING AFTER YOU NOT BECAUSE IT DOESN’T LIKE YOU IT JUST DOESN’T CARE THAT YOUR’RE IN THE LINE OF FIRE> That’s why I buy it. Plus if you look at the Allstate Hands they look ground from stone and uncomfortable, Good Hands should be a high five from a mechnic to a small boy after the mini’s fixed 300 miles from Disneyland, That’s good hands. Although I think I new insurance company called Eyeballer,. You break my shit I break your’s, if it aint the same Grandmothers Dual, whoever wins gets the check and an earlybird at Dennys,

  20. wow! i didnt understand that post completely but i love the latin-esque passion. oye Bryan!

  21. Andy said

    For the consumer point of view, Bobby Mugabe (comment is way up top here) stated it best:

    “i like staid….for extreme i go to eminem concerts with jay-z…..for homowners’ and car insurance i want someone who will pay the bills…”

    How true. Most people just want an insurance policy at a competitive price from a company that will actually pay up when needed. Boring and trustworthy are the hallmarks of that kind of insurance company. It will be interesting to see if this campaign aids or hinders Allstate policy sales.

  22. DarDar said

    Believe it or not, Fallon didn’t invent the idea of personification either. It’s a story telling method older than dirt.

    And I actually like the way Allstate used it lot more than the way Travelers did. They both ripped off Mythology, but Allstate did it with an edge that I love. I mean really, what insurance commercial hits a man pretending to be a deer?! Ballsy and hella interesting! But don’t get me wrong, I’m not hatin’ on Fallon. Props to them too! Great stuff. But IMHO, Leo took it to a much cooler, much more interesting place.

  23. Morgan said

    I like this work a lot. In fact, I think its wonderful. It’s edgy, bold and risky. Its also refreshingly direct and not trying to hide the fact its an ad.

    The other work is also wonderful. But this has a darkness and edge that is just so rare in mass advertising, especially in the states.

    Well done Leo. And congrats to Allstate for having the stones to approve it.

  24. some insurance agencies are very greedy that is why i always take a second thought when dealing with them*~.

  25. R Werner said

    Not impressed, the campaign scares my 11 year old daughter and takes Allstate completely off my list of any insurance considerations. When the commercial airs, we turn the channel, yes, its really that bad. Don’t confuse Edgy with Trashy and Slimey. Thomas Wilson, where the heck are you? Please take this garbage off the air.

  26. […] choice. Besides, I like to think of myself as an early adapter to this campaign. Back in June I applauded the introduction of “Mayhem” even when others […]

  27. […] then I read an article or two which revealed the reasoning behind the ad campaign. Allstate’s ad agency is just the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: