Why Allstate’s Mayhem kills

Mayhem. That’s what can happen when an unfunny industry decides to advertise with a sense of humor.

Allstate, however, seems to have the right formula with their Mayhem character.

Follow their lead to succeed:

Know when to say when

Humor can be tricky. Mayhem easily could have gone too far and become like the creepy Burger King guy. Or tried too hard and flat out failed at being funny.

Show real-life situations with a twist the audience is sure to remember

Most, if not all, of the situations Mayhem represents are real causes of accidents. Yes, he exaggerates them a bit (hence, the pink SUV), but that exaggeration serves notice that Allstate is not seriously attacking any one group. (Pay attention complainers who call the ads sexist.)

Stick with what works—only in a different way

Allstate easily could have tossed Dennis Haysbert and relied solely on Mayhem. But they were smart and didn’t throw away their trusted voice. After all, they weren’t changing their brand. They were changing their commercials.

Here’s what I like even more: Allstate wanted something different and the Leo Burnett agency proved you don’t have to go to a new agency to get fresh ideas. In fact, Leo Burnett has created Allstate advertising for more than 50 years.

“A good villain is a lovely thing,” said Jeanie Caggiano, executive vice president and executive creative director at Burnett. “Dennis represents Allstate and everything that is protection, Mayhem is the opposite, uncertainty,” she added. “This guy’s trouble with a charming smile, and represents everything Allstate protects you from.” (Source: NY Times)


Be funny

I have to admit, I wanted to hate Mayhem at first. But he’s grown on me. How can you not like a guy wearing a pink headband? These ads are funny.

My favorite is the one where Mayhem represents an old flag hanging off the side of a truck. If you can’t laugh at that, something is wrong with you. Check it out:

What’s your favorite?


Looking for something to keep you laughing? Try two of my faves—The Onion and The Oatmeal.



  1. peggoc · November 16, 2010

    No doubt about it – I pay attention to these. I get the message. And they never fail to amuse me.

    • ctmarcom · November 18, 2010

      It was definitely excellent casting. And I like that Allstate took the risk to do something different.

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