Joel Spolsky, of Joel on Software, rants about a two-page ad from Travelers Insurance in the latest issue of Inc. magazine.
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.
Joel then ticks off more reasons why the ad is offensive and just plain wrong, including noting that insurance actuaries are some of the geekiest people around. He concludes by saying that he’ll never buy from Travelers again.
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.
I think Joel has a point. Several, actually. I’m a geek. I’m proud of it. I love playing with new technology. While I don’t have high-water pants (although, to be fair, while I was in my teens my parents had a hard time keeping up with my rapidly growing body) nor am I a fashion disaster, and I no longer play role-playing games (not enough time), I match up with much of Joel’s definition.
Frankly, it’s not geeks that businesses should be concerned with, but professional cybercriminals from Eastern Europe and Asia. And who do you suppose Travelers is using to combat these supposed geek “threats”? More geeks, of course. Don’t forget, either, that challenging geeks in their comfort area is inviting trouble. I’ll bet real money that Travelers Insurance suffers from one or more invasions into their own business network in the near future.
Update: Joel’s post has been dugg.