Make the Huge Car Insurers Work for You- By Avoiding Them

Posted by Amy Lewis

If there’s one thing that the Big Three insurance providers do well, or at least do often, it’s produce commercials. No doubt you've encountered them: the stereotype-sensitive cavemen; the British talking gecko; the man who gleefully personifies disaster; and the streak-haired, barcode scanner gun-wielding hipster woman, “Flo”.

Now depending on your humor style, media-consumption habits and patience level, these ads may either amuse or annoy you. Unfortunately for my reputation as a fun-loving commercial-watcher, such as it is, I definitely tend toward the latter of those two and have come to find the ads irritating. Some of it is simply due to ad-saturation. For instance, as was pointed out on an episode of 30 Rock, Geico has a ton of mascots that tend to show up… a lot.

For the unfamiliar, they are represented by- the aforementioned cavemen and anthropomorphic cockney gecko, those two guys who play guitars and drop one-liners, a disturbing anthropomorphic pile of cash that stalks people, an anthropomorphic pig that shrieks, a film noir type narrator in a fedora and the “money savers” campaign (there are more, too).

Geico also tends to overestimate the appeal of these characters. On the strength of the first, admittedly clever, cavemen-getting-offended commercial, a cavemen sitcom was considered, produced, written up and then honestly, actually aired. After meeting dismal critical reception and even being condemned as racist, this situational comedy featuring characters created by an advertising agency for a car insurance corporation attempted a desperate retooling before it was canceled. I won’t go into what it might say about the state of the world if a sitcom based on corporate mascots became a popular favorite. Although I suppose one could give them kudos for switching their commercial subject matter up a little bit.

I know I’m not alone in my insistence that never seeing another Progressive commercial with the now-near-unbearable “Flo” character would be alright with me. The same goes for their mustachioed “Messenger” who is, I guess, meant to appeal to hipsters with his totally ironic mustache and general 70s-ness? (The Messenger character even tried to “Friend” me on Facebook. Are there people out there interested in establishing friendships with characters from corporate commercials?) The actor Dean Winter as the personification of disaster and destruction is maybe less obnoxious but those commercials tend to be one-note and are definitely creeping up on getting old.

Believe it or not, there’s a point to all this grumbling about advertisements: it seems indicative of their priorities. And those priorities seem to be: flashy commercial spots, a lot of work being put into characters people remember- whether positively or not, an attempt to appeal to potential customers with pop culture dazzle rather than substantive and great emphasis on convenience. Some of those emphases are more overt than others- “Insurance in 15 minutes!” While those commercials are great for spreading name recognition and sticking with those who view them (we’re talking about them here), that kind of widespread familiarity can backfire.

One famous, or infamous, example is the case of comedian Matt Fisher and his sister Katie. In 2010 Katie Fisher was tragically killed in a car accident that wasn’t her fault. Her brother Matt became understandably furious when Progressive, Katie’s insurance provider, paid a lawyer to defend the (uninsured) man who hit and killed Katie because paying the lawyer was presumably cheaper than paying what they owed her family- she had uninsured motorist coverage. Along with the story, which soon went viral in a huge way, Fisher posted images of Progressive’s mascot Flo grinning over some really cold, apparently cruelly-indifferent posts from Progressive reps.

While people were already tiring of the Flo character, when she appeared above comments from Progressive that seemed like the epitome of icy corporate greed taking priority over a tragically-killed customer’s family and interests, her smile struck many as grossly inappropriate. Suggestions that it was more of a leer than a smile were definitely made. It didn’t help that after the debacle went public Progressive denied having hired any lawyer at all in association with the Katie Fisher case, only to recant when Matt Fisher called them on it and admit that yes, OK, they had hired a lawyer.

Geico has suffered similar bad press, including any number of horror stories about claims dodged, terrible customer service and one case that infuriated the pro-gun biosphere when Geico revoked a customer’s policy because that customer worked in “the weapons industry”. The man worked for a company that legally made gun-parts for the American firearm industry. Of course as a private company, Geico is probably well within their rights to drop a customer for working in an industry they find morally or ethically objectionable but it certainly didn't help their reputation among the gun crowd.

All of that aside, the Big Three insurers have millions and millions of customers, and the more customers a corporation caters to, the greater the possibility that people slip through the cracks. And for my money, I’m not sure that convenience-of-sign-up should necessarily be such a prominently featured draw. I love convenience as much as the next guy but car insurance is an important financial consideration and whatever provider you pick will most likely be with you for years. If choosing the right provider takes half an hour rather than 15 minutes, in my humble opinion- so be it!

I have a fair amount of experience with car insurance and my advice based on that experience is: go with a provider that’s smaller than the Allstate, Geico or Progressive, but not one that’s unknown. If there’s one way in which the Big Three are definitely helping you out, it’s that their presence makes their smaller competitors fight for your business. The mid-sized houses (mid-sized for insurance companies) that are less well known for their auto insurance want to provide you with great service and a great product. Plus, their more modest size can translate into more personal service, better customer care, often quicker claim returns and more of an incentive to keep you happy than the mega-providers. Find an established provider that’s big enough to trust but not too big to care and you should do OK.

Edward Oberg has put the insurance game on hiatus and now spends his time reading cheap genre novels, shaking his head in dismay at the state of movies these days, haunting yard sales, hunting for the monster brook trout that delights in mocking him and, when he finds the time, blogging. He has vowed to defy the accepted wisdom regarding boring insurance reps by being extremely interesting.

The above article has posted by Amy Lewis, owner of the finance corner. For more details about Amy you can visit her social media profiles in below mentioned urls:




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