GEICO and the Purpose of Advertising

GEICO Free Range Chick CommercialGEICO has been responsible for many of the best commercials that I’ve seen in recent years. Even when I don’t like them, I see that they are effective. Most of my friends hate them. This is probably because most of my friends are miserable bastards who insist upon being dissatisfied. I try not to take it as a personal slight — as effective as I may be at displeasing people. Anyway, I wanted to share two recent commercials that I admire.

In 2012, GEICO spent $1.1 billion on advertising. Most of that money no doubt goes to broadcasting. But they’ve got to pay a lot for the creation of content. I generally think there is a whole lot more creativity in the advertising community than in Hollywood. Not that there is much difference. See, for example, any superhero film.

The recent “What’s Your Reason” ads were created (apparently from concept to completion) by DCP Productions. I really like these ads. My friends hate them. But really, what’s not to like? The song is catchy as hell and the animation is simple and compelling:

Some of their biggest campaigns in the past were done by The Martin Agency. This includes the gecko and caveman ads, which (again), I like. My friends (again): not so much. I think there is a special hatred for the caveman commercials, but I’m not sure why. Recently, I’ve discovered another Martin Agency ad that I think is fabulous, “Free Range Chicken.” I haven’t talked to any of my friends about it, but it will speak ill of them if they don’t like this charming story:

I’ll admit: I just like chickens — especially when anthropomorphized to one extent or another. This commercial reminds me of Chicken Run when Rocky says, “You see, I’m a traveller by nature. I did that whole barnyard thing for a while but I couldn’t really get into it… The open road, that’s more my style. Yep, just give me a pack on my back and point me where the wind blows. In fact, you know what they call me back home? You’re gonna love this: The Lone Free Ranger.” Ah, chicken humor! You gotta love it, right? Right?

There was something that I ran into while researching this article. People have the wrong idea about how advertising works. They seem to be stuck in the early 19th century when advertisements were very straightforward: “I have something I would like to sell to you if you are looking for this something.” GEICO doesn’t spend a billion dollars per year to convince people that they are the best or cheapest insurance. They do it so that when you go shopping for insurance, you will think of the company. It is not surprising that the last time I bought auto insurance, I bought it from Esurance. I had no recollection of ever seeing an ad, but I now know that Esurance is one of the most advertised insurance companies in the world — although not nearly as advertised as GEICO.

So given that we are not very rational creatures and the corporate world totally manipulates us, the least we can do is to have entertaining commercials. Of course, GEICO spends 6.8% of its premiums on advertising — over twice that of the next biggest advertiser, Progressive. You might take that into account even while noticing that that’s a mighty fetching chicken. Just because we aren’t very rational doesn’t mean we can’t be more rational. Regardless, no one will buy GEICO insurance specifically because of the chicken. Or the rattlesnake.

Mike Pence 14 Years Ago: “Smoking Doesn’t Kill”

Mike PenceIn the coming weeks, Americans are going to be treated with the worst kind of Washington-speak regarding the tobacco legislation currently being considered by the Congress and Attorney Generals from forty different states. We will hear about the scourge of tobacco and the resultant premature deaths. We will hear about how this phalanx of government elites has suddenly grown a conscience after decades of subsidizing the product which, we are now told, “kills millions of Americans each year.”

Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, 2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer. This is not to say that smoking is good for you… news flash: smoking is not good for you. If you are reading this article through the blue haze of cigarette smoke you should quit. The relevant question is, what is more harmful to the nation, second hand smoke or back handed big government disguised in do-gooder healthcare rhetoric.

The tobacco settlement is not only about big taxes it’s about big government. Under the current Senate version, the deal would require the creation of 17 new government bureaucracies to manage the tax windfall described above. But it is also about big government on a much more profound scale, namely, government big enough to protect us from ourselves.

Even a conservative like me would support government big enough to protect us from foreign threats and threats to our domestic tranquility but the tobacco deal goes to the next level. Government big enough to protect us from our own stubborn wills. And a government of such plenary power, once conceived will hardly stop at tobacco. Surely the scourge of fatty foods and their attendant cost to the health care economy bears some consideration. How about the role of caffeine in fomenting greater stress in the lives of working Americans? Don’t get me started about the dangers of sports utility vehicles!

Those of you who find the tobacco deal acceptable should be warned as you sit, reading this magazine, sipping a cup of hot coffee with a hamburger on your mind for lunch. A government big enough to go after smokers is big enough to go after you.

—Mike Pence
The Great American Smoke Out

H/T: Andrew Kaczynski

Note: typos and grammar errors as the appeared in the original; formatting errors fixed.

There Is No Freedom for the Poor

Days InnShanna Tippen was a minimum wage worker at the Days Inn and Suites in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. In February, Chico Harlan wrote about her in The Washington Post, The 25-Cent Raise: What Life Is Like After a Minimum Wage Increase. It discussed how the recent increase in the Arkansas minimum wage from $7.25 to $7.50 was still a big deal for Tippen, even though she still lives below the poverty line as she did before. But Tippen doesn’t have that job anymore.

In that same article, Tippen’s boss — the general manager of the Days Inn, Herry Patel — had been quoted. He’s a real charmer. He said, “[The referendum] was bad. Bad for Arkansas. Everybody wants free money in Pine Bluff.” This is a pretty standard conservative mantra, “I have mine and all of you are a bunch of moochers!” Remember: this is a 3.4% raise — the first one that workers in Arkansas have received since 2009. Adjusted for inflation, employees have seen a 5.4% decrease in wages during this time. I would like to officially welcome Mr Patel into that esteemed group of people who make me wish there was a god so that he could burn for eternity in hell.

Chico Harlan wrote a followup article on Monday, After a Story Is Published, a Minimum Wage Worker Loses Her Job. It seems that Herry “John Galt” Patel was none too happy with how the first article was shaping up. Perhaps his wages should be lowered. You would think that a general manager at a hotel chain would know that if you talk to reporters, they will write about it. It has something to do with their job description, just like the description for “Days Inn General Manager” apparently includes key job elements like “keeping wages below the poverty rate” and “being a jerk to everyone” and “laughing maniacally while crushing small woodland creates with the heal of your boot.”

After the article came out, Patel called The Washington Post to complain about his being quoted in the paper. Then he tracked down Tippen and fired her. According to Tippen, “He said I was stupid and dumb for talking to [The Post]. He cussed me and asked me why you wrote the article. I said, ‘Because he’s a reporter; that’s what he does.’ He said it was wrong for me to talk to you.” The whole story is tragicomic: tragic for Tippen and farce for Patel, who has shown himself to not only be a vile human being but an idiot as well.

For example, Patel was the one who recommended that Harlan interview Tippen in the first place. But he apparently had second thoughts later — calling Harlan and threatening to sue if the article was published. I assume his concern was not so much his own horrible comments but the fact that Tippen was so open about her checkered past. Of course, no one really would have noticed before; now it’s a much bigger story, “Hotel manager a total jerk: fires minimum wage employee for talking to the press.”

Digby pointed out the important point in all of this, “As ‘at will’ employees, [workers] only have freedom of speech in the abstract.” This is one of the most exasperating things about libertarians and more generally conservatives: they think that the only thing that limits freedom is the government. This is completely untrue, and in the United States the opposite is more often the case. For example, most people are far more likely to have their privacy invaded by a private company, not the government. But more specifically, it doesn’t matter if you have the “right” to say anything if that means you won’t be able to find a job. The economy is asymmetrical. The poor do not have equal political rights. That goes all the way down to the right to vote where it is far more cumbersome and costly for a poor person to vote.

We do not live in a democracy. And those who claim that they just want everyone to be equal (for example, those pushing the flat tax) are just pushing for the ossification of the status quo. People don’t start out equal. Our society does almost everything it can to make sure that those who start ahead are given every advantage along the way. And then once the rich have all the money and power, it is time for “equality of opportunity.” It’s disgusting.

Zombie Reagan 2016

Zombie ReaganConservatives have been cheered by sightings of Ronald Reagan at small events in Iowa. The reanimated corpse of the 40th president has set up an exploratory committee to look into another presidential run. The reanimated corpses of Lee Atwater and William Casey have already signed onto the campaign in exchange for an undisclosed amount of living flesh. “Just like in the 1980 campaign,” Atwater said in an email.

The recent spate of reanimations was accomplished by Voodoo priest François Dutliquer in collaboration with his second cousin Pat Robertson. “I am not a terribly political person,” Dutliquer said. “But I do what I can to make cousin Pat happy these past 70 years — you know, since the brain injury.”

Critics question whether Reagan can run for president given that he has already served two terms. The reanimated corpse of Edwin Meese[1] explained that there are many ways around around this injunction. “For one thing,” the former Attorney General and flesh eating zombie said, “His dementia was so advanced in his second term that you can’t really say that he was president.” If all else fails, the festering meat sack and bright light of Republican judicial thought said, “Do you really think the Supreme Court wouldn’t just appoint him?”

There continue to be concerns that the zombie formerly known as Ronald Reagan will not be conservative enough for the modern Republican Party. “That could be a problem,” Atwater claimed. “But we feel that eating Rick Perry alive in a televised debate should quell any concerns.”

Zombie Reagan will be the featured speaker at the upcoming Story County GOP Pancake Breakfast.

See Also

Miracle Reagan Toast Discovered

[1] Contrary to popular belief, Meese died back in 1987. His corpse was quickly reanimated because no other attorney of Meese’s villainy could be found.

Morning Music: The Zombies

She's Not There - The ZombiesThe Zombies are a good band. And I apparently mean that literally, because the band is still together. And unlike a lot of bands from that time, there is a good reason for it. They can really play. Other than producing catchy pop tunes, I’ve always been really impressed with the keyboard player Rod Argent. And only today I learned that he is also one of their main songwriters — writing all three of their big American hits.

One of those songs is “She’s Not There.” I actually find the lyrics kind of whiny. “How many people cried”? But what do you want? It’s a pop song. But the music is really good. I love the minor key. Here is the band back in 2007. It is mostly Argent and the lead singer Colin Blunstone. That might be Chris White on bass — I’m not sure. Paul Atkinson (guitar) died back in 2004. Hugh Grundy (drums) was around for the 50th anniversary show in 2011, but he’s not here.

Anniversary Post: Cigarette Warning Labels

Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act

Forty-five years ago today, Richard Nixon signed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act into law. It mandated those warnings on cigarette packages. It was one of the results of, Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States, which found that cancer and other diseases were caused by cigarette smoking. This, of course, was a claim that the tobacco companies would dispute for decades. And as we know from Oreskes and Conway’s great book Merchants of Doubt, the same scientists who were claiming that cigarettes did not cause cancer are today claiming that global warming is not real. This, of course, is a fact that the mainstream press largely ignores and continues to “report the controversy.”

When the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act was considered by the Senate in 1969, it passed with a vote of 71-8. Democrats voted for it 42-6 (88%) and Republicans voted for it 29-2 (94%). Can you image that happening today? I mean really: today. Not in some alternate universe where we knew only as much as they did in 1969. With everything we know today about cigarettes and the enormous harm that it does, there is hardly a Republican in the Senate who would vote for it. In fact, they would filibuster it and it wouldn’t even be given a vote. And when questioned, the Republicans would explain that they think cigarettes are terrible but, you know, “Freedom!”

In the end, the law didn’t have much effect on smoking. In 1984, the federal government passed another law they wouldn’t even vote on now, Comprehensive Smoking Education Act. But really, what we needed and still need are the kind of packaging that Australia has. Despite what libertarians and conservatives would tell you, companies are just fine with killing off their customers — especially if they are “free” to get kids addicted. Regardless, the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act was an important step in combating the plague of cigarette smoking on this nation. And it stands as an example of how much worse our politics have become.

Happy anniversary Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act!