Ad Rant

There's nothing like some smarmy, retarded ad campaign to really put me into peak form. Two, in particular, have been giving me obsession fodder of late. Pepsi's new "Brown and Bubbly" (well, Diet Pepsi, if you're going to be specific about it) as well as Allstate®'s new ads where President David Palmer (y'know, the guy who started off this season of 24 by eating a sniper bullet) tells us that, just because we've been in an accident, it doesn't mean our car insurance rates should go up. 
I even went to Allstate.com to make sure I hadn't lost my mind. After all, sometimes I get it into my head someone said something or other, and afterwards, try as I might, I just can't hear them say what they really said, if that makes any sense.

But no, turns out I wasn't hallucinating. Right there on the website, after I muddled about a bit, I found it: Accident Forgiveness. Here's a quote from the site: "After an accident, insurance rates can rise up to 40%. But with Accident Forgiveness, your rates won't go up just because of an accident, even if it's your fault."

What the fudge? That's like a lawyer running an ad saying, "Just because you stabbed a guy to death outside a nightclub doesn't mean you should do jail time." Sure, it's what people want to believe, but it's not the way the world works. Nor is it the way the world should work.

What in the bleep should determine my rates, if not my track record for plowing into my fellow drivers? Has Allstate decided to become a niche insurer and simply charge everyone as if they were devotees of the bumper-car school of driving, thereby attracting bad drivers who'll think they're getting "such a bargain" because their rates are no different, even though they've proven themselves to be a menace behind the wheel?

Insurance is supposed to be one of the simpler products, in that it's all based on probability and fact. If you're a seventeen-year-old driving a Porsche® with a DUI on your record, your rates are a lot higher than if you're 35, drive a minivan, and have never even been in a fender-bender. Except, perhaps, on Planet Allstate.

That's the thing. Logic tells you there are only a few possibilities for such a campaign. Either Allstate has done new research showing that having an accident has no bearing on your future likelihood of getting into another one (which seems odd, and you'd think you'd have heard the news), or they've found some amazing method to make you a better driver post-accident, or they're passing on the increased risk your crumpled escapades represent in some other way. My guess is number three, but as this is a rant, there's just no way I'll dig deep enough to find out if it could be numbers one or two.

I suppose it's possible Allstate could really be onto something here. A goodly chunk of drivers get into an accident at some point, and if you adjusted your rates to appeal to those drivers by convincing 'em they won't be punished for a mistake, that could be one heck of a sales tool. I just can't help wondering: How many drivers really think an accident isn't going to cost 'em anything on their insurance? What I mean is, even if their rates don't change afterwards, that doesn't mean they aren't being charged – it just means they've been paying the entire time.

I guess they could do it the way some gas stations rip you off for using your credit card by offering a "cash discount." They could make it where there's no increase in premium for wrapping yourself around a tree – but you do get a hefty discount for not having an accident. Sorta like when the department stores would mark everything up 100% and hold a half-off sale, back in the old days. Not that any retailers do that today, of course. No way.

I've gone on so long about Allstate, I don't know that I have space left for Diet Pepsi. Let me just say this: ick. You must be very, very careful when describing liquids, Pepsi. Even more careful than when handling pyrotechnics and pop stars. For me, "Brown and Bubbly" evokes the image of a fermenting outhouse. I'm thinking this is one of those two- or three-month mottos, tops. Then they'll switch to something catchier, like, "It doesn't really dissolve your teeth."

But I could be wrong.

Jared Kendall is a freelance writer in Baton Rouge where he lives with his wife and two children, three dogs, and four mortgages – that's in order of expense. He can be reached for comment at jared@redshtickmagazine.com.