A fresh look at the favorability and key facts and figures behind all those mascots showing up in insurance ads
Insurance marketers have flooded the airwaves with characters and mascots in recent years, but the critter that started it all—Geico’s gecko—still reigns supreme with viewers, according to a new Ad Age-Harris Poll, which finds that 40% of the respondents “strongly like” the lizard, while an additional 35% “somewhat like him.” That amounts to a 75% favorability rating—which shows that viewers are not yet tired of the 23-year-old character that is backed by Geico’s hefty ad budget. Coming in second is Jake from State Farm, who notched a 69% favorability rating. (Scroll down for the full ranking.)
The good news for all insurers using mascots—and most of them are—is that viewers seem to like them all. The poll sought opinions on nine characters (including one duo: Liberty Mutual’s LiMu Emu and Doug) and all of them achieved favorability ratings above 50%. Landing in last place was Progressive’s “Jamie” at 52%; the more well-known “Flo” scored 66%.
Geico first cracked the code in 2019 when the gecko, created by The Martin Agency, proved that silly ads are effective in selling a serious product. According to the poll, one reason they work is that they make intangible insurance products more tangible: 48% of poll respondents said mascots make it easier to relate to insurance brands, while only 34% said the same thing about real-life celebrity backers.
Allstate seemed to recognize this relatability factor when it opted to bring back its Mayhem character earlier this month after he was sidelined for more than a year. He serves to personify disasters that insurance is meant to protect against. Nearly half of all poll respondents (48%) applauded his return, while 41% were neutral. He plays particularly well with older millennials, according to the poll, which found that 65% in that demographic cheered his return.
The poll was conducted online in the U.S. from Jan. 7 to Jan. 10 among 1,033 US adults ages 18 and older.
Below, how the characters rank by favorability and awareness, along with some other quick facts about the hardest-working fictional insurance sellers in the biz.
#4. Professor Burke
Client: Farmers Insurance
Ad Agency: RPA
Favorability rating: 67%
Bio: Actor J.K. Simmons originated the role of the fictitious professor, who is based at a university modeled after a real Farmers employee training program. His early lessons showcased over-the-top insurance claim situations; in more recent years, the campaign has evolved to Farmers “We Know From Experience,” which spotlights true but hard-to-believe claims from actual customers. Burke has appeared in more than 65 ads for Farmers Insurance.
Strength: Snappy dresser played by an award-winning actor.
Weakness: Does Simmons have time to keep filming all these ads amid his bustling acting career?
In real life would most likely …
Be your favorite college professor.