"Mayhem" Seems to Be Working Out Nicely for AllState

Last Updated Jan 11, 2011 5:51 PM EST

In June, AllState (ALL) made the bold move of ditching the well-liked Dennis Haysbert from its "in good hands" commercials and replaced him with the little-known Dean Winters, playing "Mayhem" who causes chaos wherever he goes. That gamble seems to be paying off, if recent sales numbers are any guide.

The new ads show Winters as the embodiment of various catastrophies -- teenage girls driving while on the phone, puppies chewing up the back seat of your car, and branches falling off trees. In two new spots, Mayhem is snow collapsing the roof of your garage and a faulty GPS satnav unit who sends a driver up a one-way street: "Recalculating!"


E-Poll Market Research says the switch from Haysbert to Winters was a brave one, as Haysbert is one of the most-liked advertising pitchmen, spokesman Randy Parker told BNET:
Haysbert ranks *very* highly with an E-Score of 90, putting him in the top 10 percent of all measured celebrities. Winters, on the other hand, has an E-Score of 45, which puts him in the 45th percentile (below average) among all celebrities.

The Mayhem character has been well-received, however. Although awareness of the character is still low (as to be expected for a new character introduction), appeal is high among those aware of the character. In fact, in terms of appeal, Mayhem is comparable to the Geico Gecko and Progressive's Flo.
The ads have also taken some flak. Some viewers just don't like dark, dramatic advertising. Others point out that one of them -- in which a man crashes his car because he's distracted by Mayhem's "hot babe out jogging" -- is kinda sexist.

But AllState and ad agency Leo Burnett (a unit of Publicis (PUB)) won't care, as the campaign may be moving the needle: In Q1 2010, the quarter before the campaign changed, revenues declined 1.7 percent. In Q2 2010, when the ads were launched, sales dipped 9.8 percent. But in Q3 2010, with the Mayhem campaign on the air for two full quarters, the company saw a 4.3 percent sales increase, to $7.9 billion.

"Mayhem" may be turning this ship around.

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