Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The preseason's fiercest rivalry

One is scaly, green and slimy. The other is a lizard.

You can learn a lot by watching the hot, team-on-team action on the NFL Network as it reruns exhibition games all day long. One thing I've learned is that the NFL's fiercest blood rivalry going into the 2006 season is between ... Progressive and Geico. The commercial breaks have been a total slugfest as the two titans battle for supremacy in the dial-up car insurance market. First Burt Bacharach sings about the Geico gecko. Then Kenny Mayne, who used to be wry and funny on ESPN but is now just arch and unpleasant for 30 seconds at a time, sneers into the camera on behalf of Progressive. Then the gecko is on Larry King. Then Kenny Mayne is sneering at us while holding a box. Then Little Richard is screaming about something related to Geico. Then this guy with eyebrows that are something else delivers one of the most ridiculous lines in commercial history. After describing how helpful Progressive is when you're shopping for insurance -- they'll even tell you if you can get a better deal from another company! -- he says something along the lines of, "If they're this helpful before you buy insurance, imagine how helpful they are when you're a customer."

The line is so preposterous it makes me laugh out loud. There are very few universal truths, but one of them is this: How a company treats you in an attempt to get your business has no bearing on how it will treat you once it has your business. For example, three years ago, my wife bought a Ford. Everyone was so very friendly and solicitous while she still had the checkbook in her hand. But when the car started falling apart, which it did almost as soon as she got it off the lot, everyone at Ford made it clear it was now our problem, not theirs. (The Ford family owns the Detroit Lions, which makes so much sense it isn't even funny. Matt Millen is the Ford Focus of NFL general managers.)

When Progressive boasts that it goes out of its way to get you as a customer, I'm sure they're telling the truth. I wouldn't expect anything else. Hell, they may even treat you just great once you sign up. But don't think I'm so damn dumb that I see the connection between the two as anything other than a coincidence. Or an accident.

Next time, we're going to talk about that ridiculous "ab-reducing" lawn chair that Peter Brady keeps hawking incessantly. I never, never thought I would actually look forward to beer commercials.

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