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Joel on Software

Travelers Insurance: Drop Dead.

by Joel Spolsky
Saturday, July 29, 2006

Travelers Insurance is running an ad in Inc. Magazine with the headline:

“To catch a geek, you have to think like a geek.”

There's a picture of a person wearing pants that don't fit, frayed red socks, and untied shoes.

The advertisement says, “Fashion sense aside, today's high-tech criminals are evolving constantly... Give your independent agent a call, and spend your time taking your business to the next level. Instead of worrying about a crook in ill-fitting pants.”

Am I nuts, or is this ad really offensive? First of all, the implication that geeks are somehow a threat. The whole tone of the ad is that you need their excellent insurance because the world is swarming with nerds and geeks who are going to break into your business systems and steal from you. So buy our insurance.

Second. What is this, high school? With the bullies who fail all their classes have such an inferiority complex they have to make fun of the geeks? If this is high school, Travelers is the neanderthal jock beating up geeks for their lunch money. "Protection" money.

Third. I can't really think of anyone less qualified to "protect" you from "geeks" than a bunch of insurance salesmen. Get over yourselves. Have you looked at your own actuaries? Have you noticed how insurance people dress?

Fourth. Can you imagine anyone more harmless than a geek? A skinny nerd happily entertaining himself playing Dungeons and Dragons, or quietly playing practical jokes on bandwidth-thieves, or laughing hysterically at reinterpretations of 19th century light opera? What exactly is the threat, fat necks? What are you afraid of?

I'm sorry, Travelers, maybe the current Bush presidency has given you the idea that it's ok to make fun of the scientists, inventors, researchers and programmers who are creating the future, finding cures for your diseases, building the spreadsheets you use to figure out how much commission you're making, and educating your idiot progeny. Maybe a know-nothing in the White House has given you the idea that it's somehow acceptable now to poke fun of geeks and nerds, in big two-page ad spreads on the inside front cover of a magazine for founders of startups. But you know what, morons? You probably forgot that most of the people that read Inc. are geeks. And we buy insurance. Lots of insurance. Like me. And in fact I used to buy it from you. But not any more.


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