Ad Nauseum: The Humiliated Cyclist, Take Two

Now that State Farm has bowed out of the competition to air the world’s most anti-bike insurance commercial, Farmers’ HelpPoint steps into the breach with "Rush Hour."

The Scene: We hear the sound of someone unlocking their car by remote, as a be-suited, middle-aged white guy strides by in a parking garage. That must have been someone else’s remote, though, because when the suit emerges onto the street, he is hunched over a children’s bike, bereft of all dignity.

Pedaling at a ridiculously fast clip, the "cyclist" navigates downtown streets in a succession of rapid shots. He diligently signals a lane change, has truck exhaust spewed in his face, and endures the disbelieving stares of pedestrians. In what we will charitably assume is a nod to real cyclists, the protagonist is passed by someone on a normal-sized road bike.

He proceeds to exit the urban core, riding on the expressway as car commuters honk to signal their irritation at having to pass him. The previously rinky-dink soundtrack swells to a crescendo. Straining with exertion, the character mounts one last hill, city skyline safely behind him, before turning onto his driveway and entering the welcome embrace of his garage.

Tagline: "Life can be hard after a car accident." Beat. "One call to Farmers’ HelpPoint could fix that." Then an auto-pomorphized version of the Farmers’ HelpPoint logo speeds across the screen, crashes, turns into a wreck, and rights itself, good as new. A corporate motto appears: "Sanity makes a comeback."

Message: Hey, all you drivers crashing your cars out there. No need to investigate painfully humiliating alternate modes of transportation. Get back behind the wheel ASAP!

Alternate interpretation (character’s POV): Man, once you get out of your car, you really see how autos are fouling up the air and making downtown an incredibly unpleasant place. Those streets would be way better with some protected bike lanes and traffic-calming infrastructure.

And do I really need to live so far from work? This wedge of grass isn’t really worth the trouble. I’m going to get a real bike like that guy who passed me and move closer to downtown. Might cost more to live there, but I’ll save a ton on gas… and car insurance.

  • Radical Transportation Engineer

    Hey have you seen the SNY ad that depicts cyclists as a nuisance? That’s another fine one.

  • Well crap, now I’m going to have to make good on my earlier threat that I would have canceled my (renter’s) insurance policy with State Farm as a result of that other anti-bike ad if I’d been their customer, since I am a Farmer’s insurance customer.

  • Here’s my letter to my Farmers Insurance agent, Nancy Rasmussen. You can find your local agent here:

    Hello Nancy,

    I’ve held a renter’s insurance policy from Farmer’s Insurance via your office for several years now (since early 2006), and have generally been happy with the rates and billing. I have an additional insurance need which I hope you can fulfill as well.

    My partner and I choose not to own a car for several reasons:

    – owning and maintaining a car is expensive
    – we enjoy riding our bikes
    – we live close to where we work and shop
    – bicycling and using mass transit is more environmentally sound

    But that doesn’t mean we never drive. Weekend car rental rates are very reasonable, and about once a month we rent a car to get out of the city. We are frustrated that the insurance rates we are charged by the car rental companies are unreasonably high, given that we both have perfect driving records, and we would like to purchase an auto insurance policy that covers us adequately for the 20 or so days a year during which we are driving, and which is priced appropriately for the level of risk that we represent to the insurer.

    Is this a product which Farmers Insurance is able to provide? Could it be combined with our renter’s insurance somehow? How much would it cost?

    Additionally, I would like to direct your attention to this Farmers Insurance TV advertisement:

    depicting someone who has been forced to ride a bike by high insurance rates following their involvement in a car accident. I find the ad offensive, because it implies that no adult in their right mind would choose to ride a bike for transportation if they were able to drive a car, and because it depicts bicycling as a humiliating and inferior mode of transportation. I believe that bicycling is actually the most appropriate form of transportation for most urban environments, that it has significant health benefits, and is economically very sensible for many people. I think as a nation we should be promoting and encouraging cycling aggressively, not belittling it.

    As a result of this ad, if you are unable to provide a reasonably priced insurance policy which addresses my needs as an occasional driver who does not own a car, I will feel compelled to cancel my renter’s policy with Farmers Insurance, and find a new insurer.

    Thank you for your time and attention.

    Zane Selvans

  • yeah zane, stick it to ’em. i like the way you play hardball.

    you’re like chris matthews, on a bike


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