April 2, 20236 min read

From the Gridiron To The Stage: Universal Lessons From Insurance Advertising

Jake from State Farm is said to have a “low-key cool” presence, something Saturday Night Live leveraged in a 3-minute skit this season where the character comes to save the day for two suburban parents but “somehow” ends up charming the wife and slowly taking over the father’s role in the family. 

By the end of the skit, the displaced husband stumbles hopelessly along a bridge, and just as he starts to clamber over the side, there’s one final twist — LiMu Emu and Doug hop out of their yellow patrol car and save the man from jumping, and Liberty Mutual’s classic jingle brings our story (and ad?) to a close. 

In today’s category and brand spotlight, we’re going to delve into how SNL’s Jake look-alike skit managed to give State Farm a boost equivalent to over 70 State Farm ads run on the average broadcast and cable network and take a closer look at what State Farm has been doing to engage audiences with a mascot that’s so widely liked and recognized. 

Like a good neighbor, the most effective insurance ads are… where? 

Insurance products have been around for centuries, so perhaps it’s easy to conclude that everyone already has all the insurance they’ll ever need. And that, aside from making sure they have the lowest rate, consumers would rather not think about insurance at all.

In reality, while most people will need auto or home insurance at some point in their life, many countless consumers sit on the fence, perhaps paralyzed by the sheer number of options on the market. In those cases, it’s mascots like Jake from State Farm that help companies stand out. 

In fact, State Farm brought Jake back in 2020, and in 2022, they aired thousands of ads across various networks. But two networks, in particular, caught our eye: 

(1) State Farm aired 3,300 ads on truTV last year, spending an estimated $4.4M on truTV in 2022. And while State Farm ads on truTV performed well, they performed just as well as the average network for State Farm. 

(2) But where State Farm was able to see their TV advertising go a bit further was with FXX. State Farm aired 3,200 ads on FXX last year, spending comparatively an estimated $1.4M, but whose ads were 47% more effective at engaging viewers.

So while State Farm (and many brands and industries) have assembled a respectable who’s who of different characters and mascots, every company needs to be mindful about who they’re trying to reach and where. Even if it means testing creative in places they’ve never considered before, where their competitors may already be finding success. 

For instance, across all advertisers, EDO found that the most effective media environments for auto/home insurance ads in 2022 included ESPNews, where insurance ads were 87% more effective at engaging viewers on a per-person, per-second basis than the average insurance ad on other networks; followed by Nick, where insurance ads were 74% more effective by the same metrics; and then Comedy Central, where insurance ads were found to be 33% more effective, on average.

These results also line up with EDO’s findings that the non-live sports genre (i.e., reruns of past games, studio shows, etc.) has been an incredibly effective environment for State Farm ads. On average, State Farm ads that aired during non-live sports events were more effective for State Farm than ads aired during live sports events. Specifically, ads aired during non-live sports events had an effectiveness rate of 29% for State Farm and 17% for auto/home insurance companies.

Every ad you make, every step you take, they’ll be watching you

Jake from State Farm made it to SNL because he’s widely known and liked, and that’s because State Farm is smart about where and how they market their brand. During this year’s Super Bowl, we saw the brand everywhere as State Farm Stadium hosted the iconic game. 

To do so, EDO utilized a Search Engagement Index (SEI) score to determine the total increase in search volume that resulted from various Super Bowl ads, noting that a score of 100 represents the average impact measured across all ads from game day. 

EDO found that the total increase in search volume for State Farm as a result of the game was equivalent to an SEI score of 1,310, meaning that there was 13.1X as much search volume for State Farm during Super Bowl LVII as there was for the average ad during Super Bowl LVII. By SEI, State Farm ranked third among all ads aired during the Super Bowl, just behind “The Flash” (SEI of 2,373) and “He Gets Us” (SEI of 1,418). 

However, if you exclude State Farm Stadium searches, the total increase in search volume for the company is equivalent to an SEI of 112.7, which comes in at 12.7% more search volume than the average TV ad from Super Bowl LVII — not bad, considering they didn’t even air an ad during the Super Bowl and that the stadium branding has been in effect since 2006. Is the value of a sponsorship greater than that of an ad? Maybe, but State Farm has proven they effectively have all their bases optimized and covered.

Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room…or on TV…on purpose

Whether it’s the right network with the right audience or a stadium filled with people, consumers are increasingly more likely to engage with characters like Jake, a talking Gecko, or even Mayhem himself. Jake has also, with his 730k TikTok followers and counting, made an appearance in NBA2K, a high-profile video game franchise. It’s what inspires the creative work on programs like SNL and the rest of the many industry creatives within the category to stay on their toes.

But perhaps what’s most surprising is just how much of an impact that SNL skit had on State Farm’s search engagement once the episode aired. To be exact, the SNL skit generated an astonishing 921% more engagement than State Farm’s typical broadcast and cable TV commercials. When considering both engagement and the size of the SNL audience, as we mentioned before, State Farm would have had to run over 70 ads on competitive networks to see the same impact as the SNL skit.

Even Liberty Mutual’s comical but brief cameo at the end of the skit generated 325% more search engagement compared to Liberty Mutual’s typical commercials. The company would have had to run over 33 ads on competitive networks to see the same impact. 

So, what’s the difference between ensure and insure again?

As new renters, homeowners, and drivers enter the market every single day, now more than ever, it’s important to Know What Works. And while most companies like State Farm might be reluctant to be quite as edgy as an SNL skit, knowing where to place that ad is equally, if not more, important. Utilizing a data-driven strategy allows companies like State Farm to drive better results with their campaigns and avoid underperformers that no company can afford during these economically uncertain times.

If you’re looking to ensure your insurance marketing finds the right audience, or to understand if your media mix is the right mix for you, pull up our latest report on Share of Search, consider your Creative Rotation options, or contact us for a closer look at exactly what your TV ads have been doing for you (or your competitors, we won’t judge) and how we can work together to optimize your TV ad campaign for tough times ahead.


Know What Works. Always.

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