Allstate ‘Mayhem’ ads win top ADDY award

By Melissa Harris
Posted March 11 at 2:42 p.m.

One of Allstate’s “mayhem” ads.

Allstate’s “mayhem” ad campaign won “Best of Show” at the Chicago ADDY awards Thursday night, the first such awards given out here in about a decade.

In the mayhem campaign, actor Dean Winters portrays all of the obstacles that unlikely events that can lead to a major insurance claim, like a team pennant tearing loose from a pick-up truck, a distracted teen mowing the lawn or a Christmas tree falling on your car’s roof during a rainstorm.

The campaign was created by Leo Burnett in Chicago, Northbrook-based Allstate’s creative agency since 1957. (That has to be some kind of record.) It was meant to take on “cut-rate” rivals, suggesting that these cheaper policies may not cover such “mayhem.”

Leo Burnett executive vice president Nina Abnee put its mission more bluntly to Advertising Age: “We wanted to kick Flo’s ass” — Flo being the perky saleswoman in Progressive’s ads.

The campaign took just a few months to produce because the team eschewed any pre-release testing and ran with their gut, said Allstate senior vice president for marketing Lisa Cochrane.

“If you copy test, you will come to the lowest common denominator,” Cochrane said. Or as Mikal Pittman, a creative director on the campaign put it, chimed in: “You’ll get the most vanilla advertising.”

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  1. Michael Doyle March 11 at 3:00 pm

    No pre-testing? This would be why I and many other people found the “mayhem” adds to be tasteless, obnoxious, fear-mongering, and borderline offensive. The only thing the “mayhem” adds said to me is, “Shop for insurance elsewhere.”

  2. Mr Happy March 11 at 3:59 pm

    Ahh Michael Doyle, you must be in advertising. Everyone I know found the ads to be extremely funny and entertaining. Burnett’s gut was right on.

  3. Joanie March 11 at 4:01 pm

    Loved the ads, remembered the product name — win-win.

  4. eieio March 11 at 4:28 pm

    In the world of commercials, I find watching a Mayhem ad much more satisfying than watching a grating ad with Flo any day. Ultimately these commercial spots have zero influence on who I select to pay for overpriced insurance.

  5. Michael Schmoyle March 11 at 4:38 pm

    Loved the ads. Called and switched right away. I actually requested to pay triple the asking price on the premiums, just to make sure I avoided all the mayhem possible. Thank God I did. Since I got the policy, I’ve crashed into 4 poles while checking out hot joggers, had my satellite crash onto my house twice, and my neighbors dog bit an enormous hole in my tire. AllState reminded me to keep an eye out for renegade team banners, so I dodged a bullet on my way to the game. It’s great being in such good hands.

    Calm down mikey “no pre-testing….waaaahhh” it’s not the fifties anymore

  6. curmudgeon March 11 at 4:46 pm

    IMHO Allstate is the worst insurance company ever, but I do like the mayhem ads.

  7. Mayhem fan March 11 at 5:02 pm

    Wow, Michael Doyle sounds like one humorless individual. No pre-testing is EXACTLY why these ads are so darn funny. So many ads get watered down and dumbed-down due to that process. “Borderline offensive?” Really? Someone sounds a bit too sensitive.

  8. Annie March 11 at 6:43 pm

    Love these ads! I remember Dean Winters from Oz (Ryan!) and Law and Order – SVU. Glad he’s getting work.

  9. aunt suzy March 11 at 8:55 pm

    I LOVE MAYHEM! it’s our catchword now…’mayhemmm’….dean winters is HAWT!

  10. Robert Salm March 11 at 9:21 pm

    You guys are coming down on Michael Doyle pretty hard.

    I too found those series of ads repulsive and obnoxious. Crashing into people’s property? Nearly maiming and killing people? What the heck kind of marketing messages are these?

    If Leo’s intent was to show why their client’s rates are so expensive, that isn’t a positive. It’s a spin, which is more PR and not advertising.

  11. empeejay March 11 at 9:44 pm

    Dropped Allstate years ago due to outrageous premiums and constant increases even when I had no claims history. The Mayhem ads are well conceived and entertaining. Winters is perfectly cast, good looking and funny. Ads don’t usually influence my purchases. But the Progressive ads are so stupid and obnoxious they make me definitely NOT want to consider that company.

  12. curmudgeon March 12 at 8:31 a.m.

    A guy wrapped up in christmas tree netting rolling off a car roof is “repulsive and obnoxious”? Wow, some people ought to save up and buy a sense of humor. Now, “Flo”? Much closer to repulsive and obnoxious.

  13. bill wiedel March 12 at 8:57 a.m.

    my wife & ifind those mayhem ads creepy. especially one of the early ones where he’s supposed to be a female jogger & refers to his chest & states “i make sure these are a ten”. not funny, just stupid.

  14. Me March 12 at 9:14 a.m.

    Congratulations to the team at Burnett.

    Allstate Marketing is widely known to be one of the worst clients in the town and the fact that Burnett was able to produce good creative despite their client is a testament to their own sales skills.

  15. Watcher March 12 at 10:25 a.m.

    Just remember-Becky is not even that hot! BAM! LOL. I found these ads very funny.

  16. spellin' March 12 at 1:20 pm

    I love those ads! The person they picked to represent mayhem is perfect for the commercials. He’s got just the right amount of smirk to get away with it.

  17. Jack Jones March 12 at 1:54 pm

    Your in good hands with Allstate, until you have an accident.

  18. Jean March 14 at 7:47 a.m.

    I agree with Michael Doyle and Robert Salm (and any others) who found the ‘Mayhem’ ads obnoxious and offensive. Not surprising that they would win an award in the era of ‘reality TV’ where everyone competes for the lowest standards and highest ratings. Yuck.

  19. Piper March 24 at 11:08 a.m.

    Best. Ad. Campaign. EVER.

    I work for Allstate’s competition so I won’t be switching teams, but I LOVE Dean Winters as “Mayhem” and will follow him where ever he goes! And for the haters out there, there’s a little green lizard in your coffee!

    BTW Bob, “Mayhem” isn’t referring to his chest in the jogger ad. He’s referring to his whole body when he says “I wanna make sure THIS [not THESE] stays a ten.”

    BTW Melissa Harris, a christmas tree doesn’t fall ON anyone’s car roof during a rainstorm in any “Mayhem” ad – the christmas tree falls OFF of a car roof in one ad and in another, an oak tree limb crashes onto a car in a rainstorm (“Shakey shakey!”). You got your “Mayhems” mixed up!