BLOOMINGTON - Late-night television host Jake Sasseville thinks he has the answer to State Farm's quest to reach his younger generation. The State Farm Dude.
Twenty-two-year-old Sasseville, host of ABC's "The Edge with Jake Sasseville," wants to create a branded character he says would make State Farm Insurance Cos. "cool" to 19- to 30-year-olds.
So Sasseville came to the Twin Cities last week in hopes of grabbing the Bloomington-based insurer's sponsorship. He did some publicity stunts on ABC's Peoria affiliate WHOI-19's morning show and met with Ed Gold, State Farm's director of corporate advertising.
"This State Farm Dude has the opportunity to completely … revolutionize the State Farm brand for a younger generation of people," Sasseville said.
Decision-makers in Bloomington are not chomping at the bit quite yet - but they haven't said no either.
The late-night show is not the only avenue for the insurance giant to reach the younger generation, said spokesman Fraser Engerman. State Farm has a lot of options, including print, television and the Internet, he said.
For now, the company is keeping an eye on Sasseville's show and reviewing his ideas, Engerman said.
"We're still taking his proposal under consideration," Engerman said.
Think of the popularity of deli owner Rupert Jee on the "Late Show with David Letterman," and you'll understand a little more about what Sasseville hopes to achieve for State Farm in the second syndicated season of his show, which airs after "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on 39 ABC affiliates and includes celebrity guest interviews and a behind-the-scenes-look at production in New York. Sasseville is working to get the show on WHOI.
Sasseville wouldn't say how much money he hopes to attract from State Farm, but he has two levels of sponsorship - a presenting partner and an associate partner. He hopes State Farm joins Ford Motor Co., Overstock.com and Denny's as presenting partners. AirTran Airways is an associate partner.
The talk show host would still need to work on the character's development if he gets the green light from State Farm, but he sees the State Farm Dude - or Dudette - as being someone who carries on the company's values. That could include being the "advice dude" or prepping with the show's guest. The person would be a real State Farm agent.
"The State Farm Dude is always there. … The State Farm Dude can be anywhere, doing anything."
Not yet a customer himself - he has insurance through his production company but plans to get State Farm renter's insurance - Sasseville's loyalty stems from the agents he's met and what he knows about the brand. State Farm competitor Geico has done a tremendous job creating a character and making insurance cool, Sasseville said.
"I like to go for the underdog," he said. "State Farm is the underdog for coolness."