Allstate's Mayhem Is Back and He's Watching Your Social Media Profiles

Ad Series Premiers During the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day

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Since 2010, Allstate's Mayhem has distracted drivers on the road with car washes and text messages, terrorized homeowners as a snowstorm and a racoon in the attic, and served as a reminder that it's important to have the right insurance when things go wrong.

Now, he's taking to the internet in a new series of spots created by Leo Burnett, which debuted nationwide on New Year's Day. In the ads, Mayhem is a burglar who finds targets on social media based on their travel plans. Describing himself as a "nerd burglar," he breaks into a couple's home while they're away and sells their stuff on the internet.

The campaign taps into a growing phenomenon of social media-savvy burglars. A 2011 U.K. study by Friedland, a home-security company, found that 78% of ex-burglars admitted to using social media to find targets. More than $16 billion a year is lost in property crimes, according to a 2013 FBI report.

"We're not saying don't use social media," said Pam Hollander, VP-integrated marketing communications at Allstate. "We're saying use it smartly. There are people out there posting everything about their lives and they leave themselves vulnerable."

The couple in the ads is real and so is the website where you can buy their stuff. Allstate discovered Matt and Shannon Moskal, who are both 25-years-old and who actively overshare on social media, through a market research study and enlisted their help for the campaign. The company built a replica of their home and many of their belongings for the ads.

"We feel very fortunate that this was a campaign from Allstate and not a real burglary," said Ms. Moskal, who is an Allstate customer. The couple said the experience hasn't changed what they post on social media, but it made them more aware of who they share their information with. They use their privacy settings now and have slimmed down their friends list. "Take the protection of your home into your own hands," she said.

Allstate used real people in the campaign -- a first for the insurer -- in order to make the ads relatable.

"We identified this couple that is just like everybody else out there," said Ms. Hollander. "They tell the world everything that's going on."

The story unfolded over eight ads that premiered during the Allstate Sugar Bowl, which aired on ESPN. The infomercial-style spots push an e-commerce site developed by Allstate where people could buy replica items from virtually every room in the Moskal's home, including a blender, TV, weed wacker and their car. And they're all at "Mayhemically-reduced" prices -- dirt-cheap.

The episodic approach is new for the Mayhem campaign. "We're going to really capture and engage audiences who experience it along the way with us," said Ms. Hollander.

This was Allstate's ninth time sponsoring the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The insurer makes a splash every year by unveiling new creative and products, and turning the town blue with with experiential marketing tactics like large Mayhem buses that appear to be on a collision course and Allstate-branded pedicabs. But this is the first year that the insurer devoted all of its commercial inventory during the game to one campaign, said Ms. Hollander. It was done to showcase the brand during the Sugar Bowl in a new way.

Another insurance company, Northwestern Mutual, also used the college football playoffs to highlight its brand this year. The life insurer and financial services company released two new sports-themed ads during the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, which it sponsored for the first time. The 30-second spots by GSD&M, "No One Wins Alone" and "Start Early," looked at the importance of teamwork and planning ahead for one's financial future.

Social media is not only at the core of Allstate's Mayhem creative, but it's an integral part of the campaign's strategy. Mayhem, who started tweeting last year, will push the campaign on his social profiles, offering first glimpses of the items for sale on the e-commerce site.

"The TV commercials give us a nice breadth and depth to tell this story," said Ms. Hollander. "And we're going to be leveraging Mayhem's social media handles very aggressively."

The new campaign also has a public service aspect, called Project Aware Share, which aims to teach people how to be safe on social media.

"This is just the beginning," said Ms. Hollander. "The whole intent of the campaign is to launch into what we're calling 'Project Aware Share'... educating people about what they can do to be smarter about having the right home protection."

Allstate Corp. spent $486 million on U.S.-measured media for the Allstate brand in 2013, according to the Ad Age DataCenter. The company also owns Esurance.

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