Throughout all of time, which is frankly even older than TV, commercials have created stars, of course.
Mr. Whipple ... the Maytag repairman ... Joe Isuzu ... Josephine the Plumber ... Clara "Where's The Beef" Peller ... that guy in the Miller Beer commercials ... Jake Stone ...
"I'm feeling about the same as I always did," muses Jake, nestled in his cube at State Farm Insurance in southeast Bloomington.
Yes, this is Jake Stone.
Only a month or three ago, he was another face of Bloomington-Normal, a 2003 graduate of Normal Community High and in 2007 from Illinois State University, a 26-year-old guy holding down two jobs to foot the rent -- one as a bartender at Pub II, the popular uptown haunt, and the other, 24 hours a week, in a call center at State Farm.
But these days, purely on a lark and an apartment mate's suggestion, he's something else, too.
Budding household TV face.
Jake is "star" of State Farm's new "Jake at State Farm" commercials, playing nationally.
"I'm getting calls from friends from all over ... New York, Florida," says Jake, "and they all say, ‘I just saw a State Farm commercial. Are you really on TV?' "
Yes, life can take crazy turns ... and Jake's is doing a full figure-eight right now.
In the ads, a husband is seen at 3 a.m., in a dark house, talking softly into a phone when his wife suddenly appears to blurt, "Who are you talking to?" - to which the husband responds, "Uh, Jake at State Farm." With high suspicion, she grabs the phone to ask, "Oh, what are you wearing, Jake At State Farm?"
There is a pause.
"Uh, khakis," replies Jake, sitting in a darkened cubicle back at the insurance office.
There are famous words to launch a career.
Those are Jake's.
He says he hears them constantly now, from pals, fellow insurance mates, even patrons at Pub II who recognize him as he hands them another beer.
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The other morning at State Farm (Jake works there three mornings a week, 6 to 11), he was taking a call from a customer with a policy question:
"This is Jake. May I help you?"
"Jake? (pause) Jake from State Farm?"
"Yes, that's me."
"You mean, THE Jake?"
A star is born, slowly.
And it all happened so fast.
Back in March, Dane Ramirez, his roommate and a Twin City friend since Little League who is in marketing at State Farm, mentioned there was a casting call for advertising spots (any employees or agents seen in State Farm commercials, says the company, are actual employees and agents). Dane suggested, just for fun, that Jake check it out.
Within no time, he was flying to California to shoot several scenarios (the "Uh, khakis" take was just one) for the ads that began appearing in mid-June.
Since then, Jake, a rather low-key, humble guy, has been trying to stay that way.
"But it's been crazy," he says.
The company has no immediate plans to heighten Jake's visibility, like Progressive's Flo or that green gecko with the odd, Cockney accent. But early reception of the Jake ad, say company spokesmen, has been "very good" and there are whispers in the hallway that in an age of humorous TV insurance ad marketing, Jake could be a perfectly fun, low-key character to help propel the company's neighborly image.
And Jake? What's his spin as he waffles these days between answering insurance questions, pouring Bud Lights and being a media star?
"I'm up for anything ... just trying to deal as we go," he says.
Then he adds, in what could become a autograph, "As I put it to a friend, I'm just putting on my khakis, one leg at a time."
Move over, Mr. Whipple.