Midweek Media: You’re in Misogynist Hands, With Allstate

Some background: Allstate Insurance has a newish ad campaign which features a scruffy-looking, bruised and unshaven white man in a rumbled dark suit as a character named “Mayhem”. For all intents and purposes, he embodies all those random things that can and do happen to car owners – accidents, a tree branch falling, what have you.

Now, on with today’s ad.


The scene opens up with a shot of parking lot of a shopping mall. There’s a big sign on a glass-fronted building reading Cinema and Food. We see a large pink SUV, license plate number LP 527, pulling down the aisle toward the camera, and hear the distinctive ding of an incoming text message. The camera cuts to an interior shot of the SUV, at the driver directly. It’s the Mayhem character. He’s got a cell in his right hand and that same hand kind of clumsily holding onto the steering wheel. The left hand is firmly in place on the wheel. He’s got several cuts, one butterfly-bandaged near his left eye, and a bruise on his face. Large, pink-framed sunglasses are perched atop his head.

“I’m a teenage girl,” he says to camera. “My BFF Becky texts…” The phone dings twice, and he pulls his right hand slightly to look at the screen. “And says she’s kissed Johnny. Well, that’s a problem because I like Johnny.”

He tosses the phone over his shoulder, into the back seat.

“Now, I’m emotionally compromised,” he says, the words going to voiceover as the camerawork pulls back to the exterior of the SUV swerving in the parking lot. At the bottom of the screen reads: Demonstration only. Do not attempt. Cut back to the inside of the vehicle, and Mayhem widening his eyes and careening the vehicle to the left, saying, “Whoopsies!” as he swipes into a parked vehicle. The front bumper of the SUV crumples and falls away. The car it hits, a nondescript sedan, has its front bumper torn halfway off. The car is forcibly moved until it is askew in its parking space. We are back to an interior shot. Mayhem, speaking to camera, with an affronted array of expressions on his face, “I’m all, OMG, Becky’s not even hot.”

Cut to a scene of the damaged car’s owner, a black woman wearing a blue cami, blue buttoned shirt, worn unbuttoned, and black trousers. She’s carrying several shopping bags, and darts toward her vehicle, inspecting the damage. At the bottom of the screen appears the words: Coverage and savings based on policy features selected.

“And if you’ve got cut-rate insurance, you could be paying for this yourself.”

The woman looks around the parking lot, a look of shock and disbelief on her face. And then we cut back to half screen interior of the SUV, with Mayhem framed in it, and in the other half of the screen we can see the smashed car. Message at the bottom of the screen now reads: Coverages subject to availability, terms and conditions. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Co. & Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Co. & their affiliates; Northbrook, IL Copyright 2010 Allstate Insurance Co.

“So get Allstate,” Mayhem says. “You could save money and be better protected from mayhem like me.” He winks. The next shot is of the pink SUV tearing out of the parking lot.

Allstate’s name and logo (a blue circle – inside, two hands folded palm up as if to catch or hold something) appear on a black screen. Below it, their URL and a 1-800 number. Voiceover: Dollar for dollar, nobody protects you from mayhem like Allstate.

Fade out.

See also, if you dare: this other Allstate commercial

PS, the title is a tongue-in-cheek play on their motto, “You’re in good hands, with Allstate.”


        • says

          He came back and said it was sarcastic, but also he doesn’t get what’s wrong with the commercial, because when men have car accidents, it’s not because they weren’t paying attention. Which is the stupidest thing I’ve heard in months, and also extremely sexist, and apparently he doesn’t have a clue.

          So I banned him. That should make our comment modding duties much lighter this week!

          • sbg says

            Good thing. I still sometimes can’t resist poking even though I know better.

            Because that really is quite a stupid assertion to make, especially given the link to the other ad demonstrates a male driver being distracted into an accident.

  1. sbg says

    As for me, well, as someone I know said: if I owned a car and had it insured through Allstate, I would be switching carriers right about … now. What a bunch of hooey these ads are in general, but this one and the jogger one make me so angry.

    It’s not the pinkness, though that’s incredibly silly as far as denoting gender goes – it’s that the teenage girl can’t drive because her emotions are compromised. How about focusing on texting and driving at the same time? That’s a real problem. “OMG, Becky’s not even hot.” is not.

  2. says

    Okay, so even though young males cause far more accidents than young females and that’s why they have to pay more for car insurance, the stereotypes about “women drivers” and teenage girl “airheads” endure. Now, the FACTS should demonstrate that if one gender or the other should be presumed shitty drivers, it’s males. So onto debunking the airhead label…

    Please to be raising your hand if you have not personally witnessed ALL of the following behaviors from teenage boys, and I will ask you how it is you’ve never met one:

    –Incoherent hour long conversations mostly consisting of the word “Dude!” followed by laughing and snorting and further incoherence.
    –Total obliviousness to other living creatures in the vicinity.
    –Driving selfishly and stupidly.
    –Going into an incoherent rage about something a girl did to him.

    I could go on for pages. Teenage boys are FAR more emotional than teenage girls, it’s just they vent it all as anger and revenge-seeking, and my society of numbskulls fails to recognize those emotions as what they are: gothic levels of sadness and self-pity.

    • The Other Patrick says

      But didn’t you see the second commercial? Teenage boys only cause accidents because they’re distracted by good-looking women!

      • sbg says

        Good looking women who are out exercising for the sole purpose of distracting men, so it would seem, including giving passing drivers a wink when they gawk at their … pink headbands. So even if the guy behind the wheel is the one who drives into a streetlight, it’s not his fault – it’s hers.

        Ugh, I feel dirty.

        • says

          I didn’t see the second commercial – I’m recovering from a stomach flu and still get queasy easily. I’ve just watched it and OMG:

          So Mayhem always plays a female role! Women are the cause of all traffic accidents! Like that’s not a stereotype already. Fuck.

          Jesus, Allstate, time to retire. Go the fuck out of business, and fetch me a beer on your way out, you wizened old turd.

          I also seriously question the ethics of this commercial on another level, IF it’s airing in Cali or other states with similar laws: first, if your car is hit by someone who doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t stick around to become known, YOU DON’T PAY A DIME TO ANY INSURANCE COMPANY. State law. So, bullshit to AllState’s claim they’re doing anything anyone gives a fuck about there. Second, texting while driving is against the law, and they don’t mention that, which is irresponsible because it promotes the idea that texting while driving is normal, accepted behavior, especially to teenage brains which are, you know, stupid (I say that with love and memories of my own teen years).

  3. Patrick McGraw says

    Were Allstate my insurance carrier, I would be switching right now. And making it very clear why I was doing so.

  4. Robin says

    Jamie Keiles of the Teenagerie blog did a similar analysis over there a couple of weeks ago. She makes a lot of good points about the double-whammy of stereotyping teens as irresponsible on top of females as overly-emotional and self-centered. And coming from an actual teenager, it somehow seems even more scathing.

    I don’t even own a car, but if I did, I sure as hell wouldn’t be trusting Allstate to cover it.

    • sbg says

      Oh, she did a lovely job with the analysis.

      I find it surprising that there people honestly look at this spot and don’t see what’s wrong with it. I don’t care if they were using stereotypes to be “funny”.

  5. DragonLord says

    Gah! twice in one day you guys are making me glad that this sort of thing can’t be shown in the UK.

    I believe that this one would fail the factual inaccuracy rules that all advertisers have to conform to.

    If your interested in the UK regulations you can find more info Here

    • says

      See… the US is so knee-jerk anti-censorship that we don’t regulate stuff like that at all. This is nothing compared to some of the lying-through-their-teeth ads we’ve had over the years. The only thing that could possible dissuade them is fear of lawsuits over fraud, but they often stand to make so much more from selling the product than they’d ever have to pay back in court, that it’s totally worth it.

      Great system we have, huh?

      • Shaun says

        No we censor things. We have time delays on live TV so that no one will ever see a human breast for 7/16th of a second. We just don’t censor graphic violence, hate speech, or media misinformation. 😀

  6. Mish says

    I hate these ads with a burning passion. I change the channel every time one airs. They annoy me enough that I change the channel even for the “non-offensive” ones as they are inextricably linked in my mind. I wish my insurance were through Allstate just so that I could have the added pleasure of changing it, too.

    After we discussed this elsewhere, I did a little research (with emphasis on little because it depressed me) to see what the general reaction to these ads was. Sadly, industry opinion is solidly for them. In a way I can understand that: they are shot well & the IDEA is solid. It’s the execution that’s lacking. It drives me nuts that nobody notices that they’re factually wrong (“With a character who takes on various personas such as ‘the key against your side door’ and ‘a typical teenage girl,’ the ads make us keenly aware of typical automotive mishaps…” from the site AdRants, emphasis added) or that they’re blaming women for accidents whether or not they’re driving. I have no words, honestly. I don’t consider myself to be particularly aware of a lot of the sexism around me but this slapped me in the face the first time I saw it. I stared at the tube for quite a while, not able to believe that I had just seen what I thought I had.

    Sometimes I wish I had a time machine so that I could go 100 years into the future and enjoy the condemnation that society will heap on this as surely as it condemns the tradition of blackface performances. But on bad days, I worry that I’d discover that progressive women will still be fighting these battles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *