Mayhem (advertising character)
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Mayhem is an advertising character created by Leo Burnett Worldwide for Allstate Insurance. Burnett pitched the character to Allstate as "Mr. Mayhem", comparing him to the character Mr. White from the 1992 film Reservoir Dogs played by Harvey Keitel.
Mayhem has been played by Dean Winters since the campaign was launched in April 2010. The character wears a black suit, white dress shirt, and black necktie.
The formula for almost every Mayhem commercial has been the same. To begin the commercial, a situation is set up with Mayhem explaining what is going on and hinting at what is about to happen. For instance, a 2015 ad features Mayhem as a portable grill hastily put back into a car before being put out, which leads to an explosion when the still-burning embers ignite an enormous bottle of lighter fluid. Once the end result is revealed, Mayhem warns that certain "cut-rate" policies are lacking in coverage, advising the viewers to get their insurance policies through Allstate.
In some ads, Mayhem also has advised against going without roadside assistance. In three separate situations, he described what could happen in the face of a catastrophe while driving; these consisted of having to stay in a creepy roadside motel overnight because one's car ran out of fuel, being forced to change a tire in a heavy downpour, being forced to stay at an awkward family gathering because one's car battery died, and potentially becoming a victim of crime due to a breakdown in the wrong neighborhood. A series of ads in early 2018 features Mayhem taking the role of various pieces of safety equipment, such as a lightning rod mounted on a house's roof to protect it during storms or a flare placed to warn drivers of a roadside vehicle breakdown. These ads represent his New Year's resolution to help keep people and property safe, but he quickly breaks it and returns to his old habit of causing chaos and damage.
Each commercial ends with Mayhem telling the viewers that by having Allstate, they will be "better protected from mayhem...like me." Damage to his clothing and injuries to his person carry over from one commercial to the next.
Allstate developed the campaign and the character in response to being ranked fourth in advertising spending behind Geico, State Farm, and Progressive. Allstate had an existing campaign called "Our Stand" featuring Dennis Haysbert that targeted "older, more traditional customers", and the company sought to develop a campaign that would skew toward younger customers. Nina Abnee, executive vice president at Burnett, said "We wanted to kick Flo's ass." The campaign was first launched in mid-June 2010. The character was featured in TV and radio spots as well as on billboards and Internet banners. Some ads were adjusted to capture local details. By mid-2011, Allstate had won around 80 industry awards for the campaign.
Advertising Age reported in February 2011 that Mayhem rose to third as most-recognized insurance advertising character, behind the Geico gecko and Flo from Progressive Insurance. An online survey showed that the Geico gecko and Flo were each tied to their respective companies over 90% of the time. For Mayhem, the Age said, "After the top two, the most-recognized ad description was Allstate, with 65% of consumers saying they knew the ad. When those same consumers were asked to associate it with a brand, 63% correctly matched Mayhem with Allstate. Overall, among the total sample, Mayhem clocked in with only 41% of respondents being able to link him to Allstate.
- Choi, Candice (October 27, 2010). "Allstate's profit surges as investments improve". Businessweek.
- Johnson, Steve (June 1, 2011). "Behind the scenes with Allstate's Mayhem man". Chicago Tribune.
- Schultz, E.J. (February 21, 2011). "How the Insurance Industry Got Into a $4 Billion Ad Brawl". Advertising Age.
- Pollack, Judann (February 21, 2011). "In the Insurance Ad War, Consumers Ask: Who's Who?". Advertising Age.