It turns out (according to various articles from BestWeek in the last few years) that national insurance companies haven't advertised in the Super Bowl since 2007, and even then I believe it was only Nationwide who advertised. They had started a fairly new "life comes at you fast" campaign and premiered a new ad featuring Kevin Federline.
I did not take any marketing or sales courses in college so a lot of the considerations discussed in the articles had never crossed my mind before. Apparently some insurance companies aren't willing to spend the money for a super bowl ad because they're afraid they'll get lost in the shuffle of all the other ads. Other companies find that their branding is working so well, they simply don't need to spend the extra money. Usually the companies that do decide to advertise in the superbowl are, like Nationwide, looking to launch a new brand.
According to a January 2006 Best's Review article (A Brand New Approach: A Legend in Its Time) on Auto Insurance branding, "In the world of advertising, the insurance industry traditionally has had a low profile, said William Pitt, senior advisor with HawkPartners, a Boston-based marketing consultancy. "
Mr. Pitt cites GEICO and Aflac as being different than other insurance companies who don't use consistant branding. It's certainly true that GEICO and Aflac have quite a following. You can buy a stuffed duck that quacks "AFLAC!" In 2007, there was a short lived dramedy based on the GEICO cavemen and currently you can get GEICO ringtones as well as other gecko gear. Since GEICO has three different campaigns running simultaneously, I'm not sure that can still be called "consistent branding." Regardless, it looks like those two companies aren't alone anymore.
Auto Insurance Report wrote an article in their August 24, 2009 edition entitled: "Going with the 'Flo' Progressive Makes Progress Toward Profitable Growth." In the article they say:
And count us as a skeptic won over regarding the company's advertising campaign. With the now-ubiquitous 'Flo' burrowing into the nation's consciousness, it appears the marketing is finally working. . . While we're not ready to annoint Progressive as a member of the league of Extraordinary Insurance Advertising Gentlemen, which includes GEICO, Allstate, State Farm, esurance and a few others, Progressive is no longer at the very back of the pack.
Allstate has also followed the humorous spokes-person trend. As of June, 2010, they started a "mayhem campaign" You can read more about it in The New York Times. There are a number of ads (they even focused a whole series on football -- just not the Super Bowl) but below, you'll see the one where Mayhem is introduced.
While we are not trying to endorse any particular insurance company, we hope that you found this post somewhat entertaining. We do have far more data on advertising and insurance companies, including some information on the use of social media, advertising expenditures by insurer and how independent insurance agents can "combat the GEICO Effect." Please feel free to email or stop by the library to see what we have to offer on this, and other topics.