You Can’t Escape Stupid: Progressive Insurance, Allstate Insurance vs Ernst & Young

Before sending gifts became ethically questionable, sometimes I would send crisis-survival kits to people I worked with when a crisis blindsided them. Typically, the ‘kits’ included cookies, an alcoholic beverage of choice and a stress-relief toy that they could crush, throw or punch. It was our way of saying, ‘We feel your pain and know you’re working late and over the weekend because someone somewhere did something stupid that involved your brand.’

I would have sent such packages to the folks at Progressive and Allstate last month after one of their locals posted a dumb, racist sign on its door, announcing the agency was closed for the Juneteenth federal holiday.

And, as happens these days, even though the agency served a small town in northern Maine, within hours the sign, and reactions to it, were all over social media.

So, it’s certain the Crisis/PR teams at both companies spent at least part of their holiday weekend holed up in a war room somewhere, crafting a response.

And, while PR folks at Ernst & Young Global Limited (EY) probably had more time to prepare, they likely were locked in a similar room, crafting a response to an SEC announcement about its largest fine against an auditing firm. The Commission discovered that some EY auditors cheated on…wait for it…the ethics portion of their exams to become certified public accountants (CPA).

In both cases, the actions behind the crises had people wondering: What were they thinking?

In one case, though, fast action protected the brand and helped make the issue go away. In the other, the crisis is at the very core of the business. Implications for the brand are much longer lasting.


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