How an Obscure 1971 Allstate Commercial Became the Best Wedding Present Ever

David Patinella had never seen the footage of his late father

In 1971, Guisto Patinella, a science teacher in Kankakee, Illinois, was rear-ended by another car while giving a couple of students a ride to school. He was so satisfied with Allstate’s response to his insurance claim that he ended up starring in a commercial for the company.

Now, some 46 years later, the marketer has dug up that old ad, at the request of the family, as a surprise to play at the wedding of Patinella’s son, David.

Patinella’s daughter, Gina Witt, cooked up the idea while brainstorming gifts for her brother’s nuptials. The two siblings had never seen the commercial, only heard about it from their father, who died in 1994 from cancer at age 63.

Witt contacted Allstate, which was unexpectedly able to find the clip on a reel of old footage.

The ad itself is fun little time capsule. Patinella’s testimony is juxtaposed with that of a claims adjuster. Both sport the fashions of the time, and Patinella declares he went into the insurer’s office “ready for bear,” but left quite pleased.

A newer commercial from Allstate, meanwhile, captures the story of the hunt for the original spot, and of the Patinella clan. David Patinella, 44, watches his father’s commercial for the first time, the night before his wedding. That’s a clever bit of marketing opportunism, reinforcing the argument that the company—and the “You’re in good hands” positioning that bridges the five-decade gap between the two ads—isn’t just a bunch of number-crunching actuaries trying to squeeze money out of its customers, but rather genuinely cares about them, as if they were family.

David Patinella, for his part, seems thrilled with the gift. “I just couldn’t believe so many people went through all this to make this happen,” he says.

To be fair, as self-referential and self-interested as the campaign may be for Allstate, it also is pretty good customer service.

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.