In the Comfort of Your Own Home

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16 January 2009
Donald Light

So, here is something you can do in the comfort of your very own home.

The next time you are watching TV for a couple of hours, watch the commercials. Don’t leave the room, or channel flip, or check your email—just watch the commercials.

And as you’re watching, keep track of the number of commercials that feature a person who is physically unattractive, or not very bright, or doing something ridiculous, or often all three. Oddly enough, this person is usually in cast in the role of an actual or prospective buyer of the good or service the commercial is advertising.

I’ll bet a shiny new quarter that you’ll be surprised at the number of times you spot this character. Not in a majority of commercials by any means, but in a noticeable portion.

I’m not a big expert on advertising, but I do remember from business school that the general idea is to get people to try, buy, and continue to use whatever is being promoted.

So why would a commercial show a buyer/user of its product in such an unflattering light?I don’t know.Strikes me as quite weird.Maybe it is a triumph of the need of the people making the commercial (and the people who are sponsoring the commercial) to demonstrate that they are much more cool than the poor schlubs who actually might buy the thing begin advertised. (See my earlier post, “The Meaning of Cool.”)

I would be happy to say that these kinds of commercials are never, ever run by insurance companies.There are certainly many counter-examples: the commercials run by State Farm, or Allstate, or Liberty Mutual, and others.

But, it pains me to say, there are a few insurers whose commercials do view their policyholders and prospects as rather unattractive folks.

Two words to the insurers running those commercials: please stop.


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