Earlier in the football season, State Farm introduced football fans to the “Discount Double Check” in a pretty clever advertisement with Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  Sunday the Giants knocked the Green Bay Double Checks out of the playoffs, and I think they did State Farm a favor.

Successful television commercials provide their host companies with a dilemma, especially when run as frequently as football commercials are during the season.  You know the audience enjoys your ad, but if you give them the same thing in repetition for weeks, their amusement will come to a stiff halt and annoyance will take its place.  State Farm hit the mark with the first in its series of Aaron Rodgers commercials, playing off the star quarterback’s trademark touchdown celebration where he motions like he wants/has/won the WWE Championship.  It’s amusing, it’s timely, and it gives a teaser about what the service being promoted is.

Not too long ago (according to the YouTube upload date, only a few weeks ago), State Farm launched a follow-up to the original, featuring Rodgers and B.J. Raji, a Packers defensive lineman (sidenote: watching defensive linemen dance and celebrate is one of the funniest visuals around – take advantage of this more often, please, advertising world).  It’s a playful follow-up to the original, and I actually enjoy the ad, but there are a couple of big miscues in it:

  • They don’t actually say what the Discount Double Check is in this one.  This could be okay for now if they remind the audience in the third part of the series (spoiler: they don’t).
  • They take this character that provided a cheap laugh at the beginning of the first ad and cram him into the end of the second ad to try for another cheapie (whoa, no spell check for “cheapie”…is that actually a word?).  They forced it with this guy, and it’s such an ugly addition that I cringe every time I see them cut to him.

This is where I start thinking about these commercials in terms of a movie series.  The original has some success, and it is near automatic that a sequel has to be produced.  The follow-up isn’t usually a model for originality, building entirely off the success of the original and not really creating any emotions in the audience that are unique from the first film.  It is then up to the third movie to bring the audience back in by picking up on a story arc that was created in the first film and left unresolved, by creating an unforeseeable issue for the protagonist, or by some other measure.

The third chapter in the Discount Double Check series actually does a fair job of taking us through the motions of the final entry in a trilogy.  Our protagonist, Rodgers, has come around to the concept and went through with the Double Check for himself.  We’re introduced to the new “dance” for the promotion, as performed by Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.  These are both great moves, as they seal the end of this commercial series (I’m assuming).  Of course, with the good comes the terrible.  That clown at the end of the second commercial is back, and literally causes me pain every time I hear him yell.  More devastating, however, is the viewer is once again left wondering, “What’s a Discount Double Check?”  The whole “it saves you hundreds” bit doesn’t actually tell you what the offer is.

This could be considered a great move on the part of State Farm if executed properly.  You have everyone wondering what a Discount Double Check is, so now you know they’re going to do what everyone in America does when they have a question: Google it.  Of course, the videos of these ads pop up first (in my results at least…God knows how much that varies from person-to-person nowadays), but the first result after the videos is the Discount Double Check page on statefarm.com, complete with the “/discount-double-check” folder.  Perfect.  Wait no, not at all perfect.  The only content on the page is a phone number, along with tabs to see a quote or find an agent (neither of which comes close to quickly answering my question, “what is a Discount Double Check?”).  When someone comes looking for answers online, don’t tell them to pick up the phone instead.  That’s where people fall out of the sales funnel.

The commercials are entertaining, and outside that screechy buffoon who ruins the ends of both ads, I don’t have any serious gripe with the entertainment aspect in play here.  But if you’re going to run an ad campaign for a specific feature that you’re offering, shouldn’t you make sure your audience understands what that thing is?  At the very least, shouldn’t you give a clear and concise answer to that question when people inevitably search online for “what is _____?”  Thanks to the elimination of the Packers this past weekend, State Farm likely won’t bury its campaign any further with additional commercials this year.

If your sole purpose of making ads is to entertain, then go ahead and do that.  If you want to push a specific campaign, though, don’t hide the campaign behind the curtains.  I really enjoy these ads for my own entertainment, but if I actually wanted to know what a Discount Double Check was, I don’t know where I’d begin.  Scratch that, I’d start at the [currently] 20th result for “discount double check” on Google, an unaffiliated car insurance comparison site that *gasp* actually explains the promotion.  Because everyone checks all the way to the 20th result on Google, right?