Allstate’s Mayhem

Rob Williams writes:

I can’t help myself, when I watch TV I now watch almost as intently to the commercials as I do the programming. Perhaps it’s my demographic, but I find the funniest commercials to be the most memorable. Much like watching the superbowl commercials during half-time, the funniest ones tend to stick with me. To this end, AllState’s latest Mr. Mayhem commercials leave me chuckling everytime. While I used to always associate AllState with the, ‘are you in good hands’ tagline, I now find myself thinking about Mr. Mayhem and what crazy escapade he’s going to setup next for the unsuspecting victim he encounters. Despite the more edgy tone of the commercials, I suspect they are working to catch the attention of consumers. Utilizing one part fear marketing, two part humor can work.

Results? The Mayhem campaign created buzz online, as measured by tens of thousands of YouTube hits. But did it yield sales results? Probably not, although it’s hard to measure considering Alstate’s generally declining fortunes.

One critic wrote: ” Mayhem is a category sell campaign. That works when you are the market leader. Allstate is not.” It seems ironically appropriate that the company chose the Mayhem character.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

According to an Ace Metrix study released in July, funny TV ads appear to be more likable to consumers, but that does not necessarily make them more persuasive or effective.

The Good: There is a strong 0.31 correlation to likability, indicating that the more consumers perceive an ad to be funny, the more they find it likeable, and positive correlations with attention (0.30) and watchability (0.15).

The Bad:  However, consumers see funny ads as less informative (-0.22 correlation), and are less likely to switch (-0.07), less likely to desire brands (-0.08)  because of a funny ad.

The Ugly: Edelman just released a study saying that consumers demand to be entertained via TV spots.

Demographics don’t matter. With a few extreme exceptions, people of different demographics perceived the degree to which an ad was funny the same way, which may be surprising considering that ads typically poke fun at particular demographics, men or women for example.

So What’s The Answer?

It is all about the message.  

Messages must be built of substance and should use humor as a supplement—not a replacement—to create the most effective ads.

Relevance Drives Impact in Funny Ads.

The most effective funny ads are relatable. The funniest ad studied, Huggies’ “Baby Wets the Room”, broad relevance to many people, while, an ad on a fictional space ship, while funny, did not deliver the effectiveness of a highly relatable ad. Febreze’s latest campaign, using real people in unusual situations scored high on both relevance and likeability.

Funny and Informative Wins.

The most effective funny ads are also informative. The Chevy Cruze 42 MPG ad for example, communicates 42MPG to retirees that unmistakably drives the message of 42 MPG.

Consider the Campain Objective

Since driving attention and likeability are the most highly correlated metrics with humor, along with a measure of likelihood of repeat viewing of the ad (watchability), funny ads can be useful for these measures. However, since these measures alone don’t drive overall effectiveness, relevance and information remain key.

 Snap! principle of funny advertising:

Funny is as funny does: If it isn’t informative and relevant, it doesn’t work.