Archive | 1:00 pm

Ads Watch: Discount Double Check

13 Jan

I’ve been meaning to start writing about commercials here and there for a while and watching State Farm attempt to take a second crack at its moment of commercial genius with the Discount Double Check offered me an opportunity.

Among the major commercial food groups (fast food, cars, beer, banks, phones), insurance companies actually tend to have fairly decent commercials.  The Allstate mayhem commercials had their moment and before Geiko overdid them one thousand times over, the cavemen were actually inspired, which is admittedly hard to believe now.  No commercial was as on point in this past year as State Farm’s Discount Double Check.

Here’s the short and quick of it (actually long and not so quick) – an insurance agent shakes hands with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, presumably after having agreed on a policy.  A man and woman walk in, presumably husband and wife (they use the pronoun “us”) and thank the insurance agent for doing the “discount double check,” a motion that resembles Aaron Rodgers’ touchdown celebration, miming wearing a championship wrestling belt (the discount double check motion is performed a total of eight times in the commercial).  Rodgers asks what the “discount double check” motion is.  The agent claims it signifies when State Farm combs through their policies to make sure the client is getting every available discount, and Rodgers notes that the motion is his touchdown dance.

The female client asks if Rodgers is a “dancer” and shakes her hands in the air in a kind of jazz hands motion, to which Aaron Rodgers responds, with mild disgust, that’s he’s a quarterback.  The male client, believing the notion of Rodgers as a quarterback to be ridiculous, remarks sarcastically, “I’m a robot,” and moves his arms up and down stiffly in a robotic motion and while making robotic sounds, and walks past Rodgers.  The woman walks behind him, makes robotic sounds herself and gives Rodgers a little patronizing tap on the shoulder and she walks by.  After the screen flashes red with some words from State Farm, we’re back at the office, where an obese Green Bay Packers fan with a cheesehead hat bangs on the glass and shouts “Rodgers” (but it sounds more like “Rodjaaahs”) and screams “discount double check” and then does the motion.

Honestly, there’s no reason the commercial should work.  There’s absolutely nothing brilliant or innovative in its conception.  What makes it work are tiny little things that only come alive in the filming.  The way the woman shakes her hands when she calls Rodgers a dancer, and the way she pats him on the shoulder.  The robot sounds both the man and the woman make as they walk past Rodgers.  The slightly bad but not completely terrible acting of Rodgers when he says “I’m a quarterback.”  The way the fat guy at the end says “Rodgers.”

Unfortunately, State Farm made a terrible decision.  They decided to go back to the lab, to try and scientifically figure out what make the original Discount Double Check ad work so well, and reassemble all the elements, thinking that if they had the formula right, the new commercial would work just as well.  Wrong.  I can not emphasize this enough.  Wrong wrong wrong and I’m sure anybody who watches the ad would agree.

The new commercial features the same actors and the addition of Green Bay Packers nose tackle BJ Raji.  I don’t even want to describe it, because then I have to watch it at least half a dozen times and just watching it twice now to talk about it this much makes me sad.  Watch it and recoil in pain as it misses the mark entirely.  It just doesn’t work at all.  It’s so blatantly repetitive, and not in a good way, taking all the elements without any of the little subtle touches that make the first ad work so well.  Rodgers again remarking on the stolen touchdown dance.  The woman attempting to refer back to Rodgers being a dancer.  They even bring back the fat cheesehead just to scream, “discount double check!”  I just hope it doesn’t ruin the original for me.

It seems as if State Farm realized their commercial was an unexpected hit and then tried to quickly follow up.  The problem was that there was no magic formula at work here.  It’s impossible to explain exactly what makes this commercial tick.  Okay, that’s not exactly true, and I hope I’ve done a fairly decent job of explaining it above.  But it’s impossible to recreate it because honestly I don’t think they could have possibly known when filming it that it would work so well.  This happens in commercials more than in any other form of media.  It’s a thirty seconds shot of the absurd and your done.  It can be one actor’s smile, the way a car drives off in the background, tiny little details that upon repeated viewing make a commercial enjoyable.  Everything needs to go right for a moment of commercial genius.  It’s rarely possible to recapture that.  State Farm would have been better off to at least try a new setting and different actors.  To go back with the exact same people and scenario is hubris.

Generally, it’s better to leave people wanting more than to dip into the well one too many times (there are certainly exceptions, yes, and I don’t want to really break down this adage in detail right now).  It’s hard to remember as mentioned before that Geiko’s cavemen were actually genius when they first came out because they’ve been so beaten to death.  Get in, and then when you’re lucky enough to hit your mark, get the fuck out and try something new.