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.

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“Free credit report dot com. Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your mom.”

I think the rhyme goes something like that. At least that’s how I sing it in the shower. I’m of course referring to the silly, catchy jingle for the popular Freecreditreport.com ad campaign. The advertising from the Martin Agency is achieving cult-like status. I’ve read the Canadian born actor lip synchs the jingle. Regardless, he is now a celebrity. Good for him. Sure beats digging ditches.

Though I admire this campaign, even if I am sometimes annoyed by it, I like what another similar client has done to dramatize bad credit scores even more. Freecreditscore.com’s campaign is pure genius. Likening a bad credit score to a rogue pet, the result is both funny and strangely believable. Both are indeed hard to get rid of or improve. Seeing various furry “numbers” tearing up one’s sofa and piddling on the carpet might seem far-fetched but it really works –metaphorically and conceptually.

For one thing, the campaign’s execution is flawless. A grainy film tone perfectly captures the hard working demographic, while the scruffy, ill-mannered numbers are wonderfully low-tech and utterly realistic.

The latest spot (above), featuring a grizzled dogcatcher hunting down one such number, is my favorite by far. When the hefty man falls on his ass rounding a corner…it’s bleepin’ golden. The moment is played just right. As is the rest of the commercial.

What makes both campaigns more remarkable is they are essentially direct response television commercials. As most you know, DRTV is a hardcore selling form of TV commercial, often produced cheaply and run at odd hours. A hallmark of DRTV is the omnipresent call to action, URL and/or 800-telephone number. Done well, DRTV can be extremely effective. Most of it, by design, seldom rises above a certain aesthetic standard. That’s because DRTV was not created to build brands but to move products. (My agency, Euro RSCG Edge broke these rules a year ago with a “Cash for Gold” commercial featuring Ed McMahon and MC Hammer. Pretty damn funny. It ran on the Super Bowl!)

No doubt these campaigns are delivering users for both clients. They’ve been running for several years now. But they’re building a brands as well –charming, approachable and attractive ones at that. And for what? Number crunching websites! In my opinion, Freecreditreport.com’s inspired silliness does for credit ratings what that tetchy lizard does for Geico Insurance.

Beyond the entertainment, I’m impressed by good salesmanship. Creating an inordinate amount of drama around a “bad credit score,” and then a solution for it creates insatiable curiosity in the viewer. How can one not wonder what his or her credit score is? And now they can find it. And fix it. For free!

Just guessing but could both these clients be the same? Or are they rivals?

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