The best commercials spark conversation, and there’s a series of TV ads that still make me smile each time I see them and keep coming up in conversation with friends and family.

Those would be the “Dr. Rick” commercials for Progressive Insurance. The fictional “Parenta-Life Coach” and author of “Un-Becoming Your Parents” works with new homeowners who have turned into their parents.

One spot features Dr. Rick talking to people about not using speakerphone in a home improvement store and not giving unsolicited advice on grout brushes to strangers. In another commercial, Dr. Rick helps a woman remove throw pillows from her couch because, “if you have nowhere to sit, you have too many.”

I don’t know about you, but these ads hit a little too close to home for me. I can see elements of my parents and myself in these commercials. If the next commercial features a woman following her husband around to turn off lights he left on in the house (which my dad totally did to me when I was younger), I will feel personally targeted.

To me, these commercials nail the important priority of ads connecting with and targeting the right audience. I turned 40 earlier this year, so they have to be targeting people in that 30-to-50 age range who own a home and slowly – but surely – find themselves repeating behaviors they most certainly learned from their parents.

They also identify common pain points of home ownership and, in general, getting older, from fixing and decorating a home to technology etiquette.

Where I realized the spots struggled was with clear identification of brand identity and call to action. When I was talking to my husband about this blog, I mistakenly recalled that these spots were Geico commercials until I found them again on YouTube. I think my brain assumed Geico had cornered the market on funny commercials, so even though the Progressive name is used, I didn’t remember it being there.

Understandably, those are a lot of priorities to cover in a 30-second commercial. But think of some of your favorite TV ads and see if you can remember what they were selling. To this day, I still sing “Lock the Cashbox” when I hear The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah.” That first reference was from a misunderstood lyrics TV spot for – wait for it – Cingular Wireless from 2006. Memorable concept, but not a memorable brand.

I didn’t realize these Dr. Rick stories were a nod to the “turning into our parents” theme of previous commercials. One of those older spots seems to end with a stronger call to action about “saving a bunch of money by bundling home and auto with Progressive.” The Dr. Rick spots have that, too, but maybe the other was more effective because an actual character in the commercial read the call to action? Because Progressive’s “Flo” character has become so synonymous with the brand, the new spots maybe could have featured her (or anyone in a Progressive apron) in the background as another brand reminder (hat tip to the husband for that idea).

Ultimately, though, these commercials got me talking, researching Progressive online, and writing about how great their marketing is (kudos, guys!). I’m not in the market for new home insurance, but getting people to talk about your brand and services, connecting with them, and being clear about how they can buy are various parts of the funnel that can lead to eventual purchase or someone becoming your client or customer.

If you’re looking for ways to connect memorable marketing with your audience and be more effective while focusing on your brand identify, give us a call.