Thursday, December 01, 2011

At Farmers® University, We All Know Prof Burke. Don’t We? Then Who’s Prof Allen?

An RPA press release announced last March that Farmers Insurance was going to launch five new TV spots and eight new print ads to build on the successful University of Farmers campaign. John Ingersoll, Farmers Group VP-Advertising was quoted:

We've found that consumers are remembering the University of Farmers campaign and it is bringing the brand to life for them. Consumer response to the icon, Professor Nathaniel Burke, has been very strong. They like him from his other film and TV roles but also feel his character is a good fit for the brand.

Prof Burke is the classroom character developed for Farmers by its ad agency, RPA. He’s portrayed in commercials, print and website by J K Simmons – you've seen him in “Burn After Reading,” “I Love You Man,” “The Mexican” and “Spider-Man.” A terrific character actor, he carries the role even in the print ads photographed by Nadav Kander.

That’s Burke. So who’s this Professor Miles Allen I spotted in the print ad you see, second above, in yesterday’s Black Enterprise magazine? The African American version?

Of course. It’s the first execution from multi-cultural agency Muse Communications which launched new ads for Farmers Insurance. Chairman/CEO Jo Muse noted in a press announcement:

The brand campaign continues the University of Farmers theme while targeting an African American audience. The commercials introduce the newest faculty member, Professor Allen, played by actor Orlando Jones.

I can’t think of better casting, since Jones is also an accomplished actor although it took me a while to match him up with a recognizable face. The entire African American story in re Farmers is all over the Web…but in bits and pieces.

So here’s additional thanks to the outstanding photographer involved with the Muse version of the UF campaign, Matthew Jordan Smith. He keeps a blog. His details about the assignment, about Jones and the photoshoot are right here.

The story’s fun reading, rare even in our biz where everybody talks about everything, because most of us like nuts and bolts, the how-to. (Possibly that’s more of a creative’s thing versus a marketer’s.) Press releases inform. Participants’ blogs and posts really give a story like this texture.

Maybe because it caught me by surprise, the Prof Allen “Home Insurance Quiz” ad also caught my attention, even though it builds on the existing RPA/Prof Burke campaign. There are new perspectives to it – like the chalkboard maze’s visual reference, perhaps, to the challenges African Americans face in buying a home in the first place due to redlining or subprime loans.

A couple of additional thoughts occur. First, by casting Jones in the African American print campaign, Farmers and Muse are clearly setting the stage for Jones-as-Allen in TV commercials.

Second, when you look at the RPA website, let me know if you find the Farmers Insurance campaigns under “Our Work” because I can’t. Kind of a shame, that.

It looks like the Allen print campaign’ll be running in Essence, Ebony, Jet and Black Enterprise. An online banner campaign will be geographically targeted in key markets in addition to running on top Web sites such as, and

So third, why isn’t Farmers Insurance running these ads in their general rotation? That way, the rest of America could meet Prof Allen.

FYI: Ads © Farmers Group, Inc. I’m sure all rights are reserved. And many thanks to photographers Kander and Smith for their print-shooting. The polished apple on Allen’s desk is my fave touch.

1 comment:

Brian Bearden said...

What is interesting is J K Simmons from 1997-2003 played Vernon Schillinger, one of the baddest prisoners in the HBO Mini-Series OZ. I bet it was the fact that it has been 8 years since OZ went of the air and his roles after that series that made Farmers pick him for the Professor role.