Monday, January 16, 2012

Quite a Character- "Mayhem" Keeps You on Hold

Alright, let's do this. Let's talk about one of the best characters in commercials today, Mayhem. Mayhem is amazing. Mayhem is versatile.  Mayhem works in every possible situation.  Allstate struck advertising gold when it teamed up with actor Dean Winters to create one of the most entertaining and devious commercial stars of the small screen. You may recognize him as Liz Lemon's crusty, loser ex-boyfriend, Dennis Duffy from 30 Rock.  But to me, he'll always be Mayhem.

The beauty of Mayhem is the variety of horrendous situations that Allstate has thrust him into.

Mayhem has been an emotionally compromised teenage girl.


Mayhem has been a hot lady jogger, making sure "this" stays a 10.

Love that awesome headband.

Mayhem has been your errant GPS.


And most recently, Mayhem strikes home for Allstate by directly attacking the competition.  Don't be confused, Mayhem has on a couple occasions actually struck a home- as a pile of snow on the roof, as you son on a law mower, and as your satellite dish. But I'm referring to the new spot where Mayhem is a claims representative at a rival insurance company.

This commercial works.  Some of the multitude of Mayhem ads haven't exactly hit the spot, but on the whole they are effective and memorable.  Each of the Mayhem ads have dark undertones.  Mayhem throws himself off roofs, into traffic, causes accidents, and is always nearly killing someone.  This one gets bonus points for the direct dig at the competition.

Mayhem isn't a nice guy.  So Allstate gets away with what amounts to an attack ad, without losing the audience.  No one watches this and says, "Hey! You guys are being so unfair to those nice insurance companies." We're sick of hearing from insurance companies.  If you consider what you see in any given commercial break I think you'll find the most common ads are for the following: cars, fast food, cable/satellite/phone, and insurance.  There may be some other obvious categories I'm leaving out, but you can't deny that the insurance companies are some of the worst offenders.  They use warm, fuzzy images, cute talking characters, and invoke sentimental family moments.  Gag.

As a small aside, let me just throw it out there that I HATE FLO. Hate her. Every single one of those Progressive commercials makes me scream at the TV.  Nothing about those commercials makes any sense.  What is this weird insurance store she runs? Why do customers pick out boxes of insurance? Insurance doesn't come in a box! She isn't funny.  She isn't witty. She's just weird and annoying and so are those commercials.  ARGH!

Ok, glad to get that out of my system for now.  I expect I may need to more thoroughly deconstruct my hatred in the future, assuming Progressive continues to use that poor excuse for a spokesperson.

Back to the point... 

Insurance companies have a bad rep for hanging people out to dry when they're needed most.  I'll never forget the hateful messages scrawled on debris scattered around Biloxi, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina directed at insurance companies who found excuses to avoid paying.  Regardless of your politics, insurance companies are rarely considered to be the benevolent caretakers they play on TV.  Those personas are specifically constructed to gain your trust, goodwill, and your money.  But in reality, those companies can be infuriating to deal with in the best of times.  That's why the frustration portrayed in this commercial is so real to every person watching in TVland.

Mayhem hits it on the head playing the carefree, clueless voice telling you to stay on the line.  The sprite-like, happy hold music is the perfect contrast to the dark images of the stranded, desperate motorist.  I laughed when he said a representative would be with you in 97 minutes.  That sounds about right.

The best moment in the entire spot is that bright little trill on the electric keyboard. Perfect.

The Ratings
Appeal: B+
Effectiveness: B
Longevity: B+



  1. I like the GPS one. I know this is not exactly hilarious, but here's one of my favorite insurance company ads:

    I always joke with Jackie about stuff like that with Ollie.