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Restless Native

Ron Judd's take on Northwest people, places and events.

January 19, 2011 at 11:32 PM

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Left-lane campers: A lot like you. A little different

Posted by Ron Judd

I'm not sure whether to be flattered, or start asking for royalties.

The Restless Native's years-long crusade against dullard -- or intentionally law-breaking -- left lane freeway campers got an unlikely ally this week: Seattle's PEMCO Insurance, which announced a new "Oblivious Left-Lane Occupant" character as part of it's clever "We're A Lot Like You. A Little Different" ad campaign.

The ad campaign -- surely you have seen it -- is a lighthearted sendup of Northwest stereotypes, each a "profile" of a local character: Sandals and socks guy, the blue tarp camper (ahem! another longtime column staple. At least someone is reading.), etc.

The latest group of profiles in the campaign, a dual effort of PEMCO's marketing department and ad agency DNA Seattle, includes "Profile #38, Goosebumped Beach Bum," "Profile #6, Urban Chicken Farmer," "Profile #2, Type A Yoga Girl," "Profile #98, The Honker," and the soon-to-be-famous "Profile # 51, Oblivious Left-Lane Occupant, who thinks "stay right except to pass" is merely a suggestion."

Bravo, PEMCO (something you're not likely to hear much in these parts these days, given the insurance company's recent rate "redesign" -- to some customers, at least, a fantastically imaginative term for price boosts).

A couple reactions:

The left-lane camper's ascension to PEMCO mythical Northwest icon status pretty much establishes the plague as an irrefutable given. But it brings mixed feelings to those of us who lament the region's collective driving stupidity on a daily basis.

To this point, all the PEMCO characters have exhibited traits that could be considered amusing, maybe charming, occasionally even endearing: "Relentless Recycler," or "4-Way Stop You Go. No You Go. No You Go. Guy" being good examples. "Different," in other words, has been equated to quaint.

This one, though, celebrates an inexplicable local quirk that is rooted either in (pick one) chronically limp state law enforcement, rampant driver ignorance or deep-seated, passive-aggressive personality defect among those who camp left and break the law on purpose. In the latter case, not really quaint. Just annoying. And potentially dangerous. Delving into the local dark side might not exactly be a good trend for the ad schtick. (Could "Chronically Irritating SAD Sufferer" or "Green Lake Parking Lot Car Stereo Jacker" be far behind?)

To avoid this pitfall, PEMCO wisely focused on the clueless driver -- as opposed to tripwire vigilante -- in its profile of the lane camper, personified by a guy standing gazing into the distance, a series of question marks next to his head. From the online ad:

Like a comfy leather couch you just can't bring yourself to get out of, so goes the left lane of the highway for an absent-minded few. Stay right except to pass? Nah. I'll just stay right here. I have so much space in front of me!

Hint: Not the right lane.

Decaf tea.

The one you're currently stuck behind.

Life In The Fast Lane by The Eagles.

That keeps it cute, and, while we hate to see the teeming masses of intentional law-breakers get a pass from PEMCO, the bottom line is that any publicity that might aid the cause of getting people to KEEP RIGHT EXCEPT TO PASS is good pub.

So we'll help PEMCO along here with an attaboy, a link to the lane camper radio spot, and a link to more details on the ad campaign. "Sneak peeks" of the new ads also will begin Feb. 4 on Facebook.

Anything we can do to help spur the local economy, and ensure insurance for all.

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