GEICO advertising campaigns
GEICO advertising campaigns are known for using surreal humor and satire, often featuring distinctive characters such as the company's mascot, the GEICO gecko. The advertising strategy incorporates a saturation-level amount of print (primarily mail circulars) and television parody advertisements, as well as radio advertisements. A common line used by GEICO is "15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance."
Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of GEICO parent Berkshire Hathaway, has stated that he would spend $25 billion on GEICO ads if he could, approximately double the spending in 2012, which was $1.1 billion, over twice that of second place Progressive Corporation, with 6.8% of premiums going into commercials. However, this is offset by not paying agents commissions, since GEICO uses a direct to consumer model. This has resulted in GEICO being the second largest auto insurer in the United States (behind State Farm).
Many of the most prominent TV ad campaigns, such as the GEICO Gecko, the GEICO Cavemen, the Rhetorical Questions campaign featuring Mike McGlone, Maxwell the Pig, and the GEICO Hump Day Camel were developed by The Martin Agency.
- 1 Animated advertisements
- 2 The GEICO Gecko
- 3 Maxwell the Pig
- 4 GEICO Cavemen
- 5 Parodies
- 6 Real service, real savings
- 7 Blueprint commercials
- 8 My Great Rides
- 9 GEICO Racing
- 10 TRS: The Real Scoop
- 11 Short Stories and Tall Tales
- 12 Xtranormal
- 13 Brighter Side
- 14 Get Happy, Get GEICO
- 15 Did You Know?
- 16 It's What You Do
- 17 What's Your Reason?
- 18 Unskippable
- 19 External links
- 20 References
Animated advertisements were part of the early GEICO Direct ads as well as the "Dumb Things" campaign. The 15-second long commercials, animated by Bill Plympton, featured a curious little man walking up to an object and eventually getting hurt due to his curiosity of the object. One of the commercials, for example, involved him finding a cannon and pressing a button, causing a resulting cannonball to fire out and stick to his face. The original saying in the commercial was "You could still save money on car insurance. Even if you made a few mistakes."; later modified to "We all do dumb things. Paying too much for car insurance doesn't have to be one of them."
The slogan exclusive to this campaign is "GEICO: 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance".
The GEICO Gecko
The company's ads sometimes focus on its reptilian mascot, The Gecko, an anthropomorphic Day Gecko created by The Martin Agency, modified in 2005 to a CGI character by Animation Director David Hulin and his team at Framestore. The gecko first appeared in 1999, during the Screen Actors Guild strike that prevented the use of live actors. The original commercial features the Gecko, voiced by actor Kelsey Grammer, who climbs onto a microphone on a podium and utters "This is my final plea: I am a gecko, not to be confused with GEICO, which could save you hundreds on car insurance. So, STOP CALLING ME!", before licking his eye. Later "wrong number" ads used Dave Kelly as the voice of the gecko. In the subsequent commercials with Jake Wood (which portray him as a representative of the company), the gecko speaks with a British Cockney accent, because it would be unexpected, according to Martin Agency's Steve Bassett. In 2010s commercials, the gecko's accent is more working-class, perhaps in an effort to further "humanize" him. "As computer animation got better and as we got to know the character better, we did a few things," says Steve Bassett, creative director at The Martin Agency. "We wanted to make him a little more guy-next-door. And he looks a lot more real than he's looked before." Chelsea Clinton memorably interviewed the Geico Gecko in April 2013.
Maxwell the Pig
Maxwell is an anthropomorphic talking pig and something of a recurring character in a few GEICO advertisements. Maxwell debuted in an installment of the Rhetorical Questions campaign as the "little piggy who cried 'wee wee wee' all the way home" (referencing the famous nursery rhyme "This Little Piggy") being driven home by a friend's mother, squealing along the way. While Maxwell was originally intended as a one-time character, the popularity of his debut commercial resulted in him being spun off into his own series of commercials which usually feature him as a tech-savvy, informative pig who is most concerned with his GEICO-related objects.
A popular series of well-received advertisements uses cavemen as pitchmen. Also developed by the Martin Agency, the ads center on Neanderthal-like cavemen, no different from modern-day individuals (outside of the somewhat prehistoric facial features), encountering either an ad or commercial with the tagline "GEICO: so easy a caveman could do it," followed by their disgust with the supposed stereotype of caveman stupidity. The ads posit a world where cavemen are still alive and active members of society in the present day, behaving and living nothing at all like the stereotypical caveman. The main characters presented in the ads are affluent, educated, and cultured, eating at fancy restaurants, going to exclusive parties, and seeing their therapists (portrayed in the commercials by two-time Oscar-nominated actress Talia Shire). The humor revolves around the relative normality of the cavemen's presence and their reactions to the stereotype represented in the ads, and their attempts at defending themselves from the stereotype.
The ads were so successful that the commercial actors are appearing in a successful series of interactive websites written and produced by GEICO's in-house creative team at Caveman's Crib and most recently, iHeartcavemen. A spin-off TV series, titled Cavemen and starring new actors, debuted on ABC in October 2007 to overwhelmingly negative critical reaction. It was canceled after only six episodes were aired.
Another common theme is misdirection, in which the commercial appears to be about an unrelated product (or, in fact, may not even be a commercial), suddenly changing to become a plug for GEICO. The commercials use a variety of fictional characters such as Speed Racer, Chatty Cathy, Jed Clampett, and Bill Dutchess. Other commercials relate to a hair loss doctor who has saved by switching to GEICO, a nature show about a fish, workout with Tony Little, and a soap opera of a couple who are breaking up. Another set of GEICO ads involved a fictional reality show called "Tiny House" in which contestants were forced to live in a half-scale house.
An additional commercial theme is the promotion of fictional products. In 2006 parody ads featured such products as long distance phone service, tomato soda, fast-food, a reality TV show, dolls, and even poking fun at the Old Navy commercials - in all cases, the parody portion of the ad ends with "but it won't save you any money on car insurance." After the GEICO slogan is heard, the commercials end with "Why haven't you called GEICO?" Including Wonder Glue.
The parody pitch crossed over to the Caveman campaign in 2007, in a 10-second spot that appears to be a talking heads news interview, but features the popular caveman.
Actor Scott Whyte has made a series of commercial parodies, calling the company, "Schmeiko", while performing a series of impressions.
"I've got good news"
In another ad campaign, a character would be breaking bad news to another (such as a baseball manager replacing a struggling pitcher with a reliever), but then offers helpfully, "I've got good news: I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to GEICO!" That news, of course, is of no immediate use at all to the other character(s). Some of the ads were parodies and/or featured celebrities including, for example, Esteban; one featured the popular anime character Speed Racer. The exchange became parodied for a time while the ads were popular. One of the most watched "I've got good news" spots was a soap opera parody featuring television actor Sebastian Siegel.
In another series of ads, a GEICO pitchman is played by actor Jerry Lambert in an extremely bland and understated way, parodying the stereotype of an insurance man, such as reading to a group of uninterested children from a book of fairy tales about insurance. In one segment, he reads a supposed e-mail from a viewer saying it would be "da bomb" (i.e., something good), if the Gecko would do a dance called "The Robot". Cut to the Gecko doing that dance smoothly and gracefully (to the tune of a not-for-public-sale melody called "Sweet World" by a group called Omega Men, which was used in the arcade video game In the Groove 2) and then back to the insurance salesman attempting to do the same dance, seemingly more stiffly than an actual robot would. The newest commercial featuring the GEICO gecko depicts the Gecko receiving a business suit from the salesman, in order to present a more professional appearance, but he declines.
Real service, real savings
In this campaign, a real GEICO customer would present his/her testimonials, while a celebrity standing next to, or behind, the customer uses his/her signature styles to help get the customer's word across.
Some of these real persons included
- Caitlin Gardner
- Kari Rigg
- Brenda Coates
- Denise Bazik
- Andrea Barrow
- Steve O'Dell
- Tara Guelig
- Stanley Smith
- Dan Scott
- Alex Klein
- Rick Wilcockson
- Paula Sala
Some of these celebrities included
- Peter Graves
- Peter Frampton
- Burt Bacharach
- Little Richard
- Mrs. Butterworth
- Joan Rivers
- The Pips
- James Lipton
- Michael Winslow
- Verne Troyer
- Don LaFontaine
The slogan exclusive to this campaign is "GEICO: Real service, real savings".
In 2012, GEICO also had several only blue-and-white ads, coined as "blueprint commercials", that focus on getting the point across that GEICO is "saving people money on more than just car insurance" (such as motorcycle, RV, boat, etc.), accompanied by the song "Gimme What I Want" by DCP Productions.
My Great Rides
In 2007, GEICO also launched a social networking site, My Great Rides, for motorcycle owners. My Great Rides is a place for cycle owners to share stories about trips they have taken on their bikes, as well as post pictures of their motorcycles, and comment on other members' stories and pictures. My Great Rides was taken down on February 27, 2012.
The number 7 car of the NASCAR Nationwide Series is driven by Mike Wallace and was sponsored by GEICO prior to 2009. Commercials involving the race team are of a memorably disdainful young boy, played by actor Eddie Heffernan claiming to be a relative of Mike Wallace and being a better driver. The boy says, "When people see Mike Wallace and the GEICO number 7 doing well, they'll think of saving a bunch of money on car insurance. But when they see me, they'll say, 'There goes Lauren Wallace; the greatest thing to ever climb into a race car.'"
The commercials are sometimes presented in an interview fashion, where an unseen narrator speaks to the ambitious go-kart driver. "What do you think of Mike Wallace?" the child is asked, to which he responds, "Whatever, he's out there selling car insurance, I'm out there to win." When questioned on his relation to the NASCAR driver, Lauren shakes his head and concludes, "I didn't say I wouldn't go fishing with the man, all I'm saying is if he comes near me, I'll put him in the wall." To which the narrator questions him, "You don't race in the Busch Series." Lauren replies "Listen, go-kart track, grocery store, those remote controlled boats; when it comes to Mike Wallace the story ends with me putting him in the wall."
New ads in this lineup include Lauren referring to himself as being, "100 miles away and ready to strike," and "lightning in a bottle."
The success of those ads resulted in the launch of an interactive website written and produced by GEICO's in-house creative team at GEICO Garage. The site includes cameo appearances by Lauren Wallace and drivers Mike Wallace, his daughter Chrissy Wallace, Speed TV's Tommy Kendall, Paul Tracy, Christian Fittipaldi and Max Papis.
TRS: The Real Scoop
Introduced in July, 2007, this series of ads features an E! True Hollywood Story-type show about famed fictional characters such as Fred Flintstone, Jed Clampett, and even a Cabbage Patch Kid named Ben Winkler claiming to have their cars (the Flintmobile, Jed's 1923 Oldsmobile truck, and a Plymouth Reliant/Dodge Aries, respectively) insured by GEICO, featuring interviews with made-up investigators (however, the Ben Winkler spot does not have an interview). These commercials were voiced over by narrator David O'Brien.
Short Stories and Tall Tales
Starting in 2010, there have been TV commercials in which a nursery rhyme, being read to the audience from an illustrated book entitled Short Stories and Tall Tales, turns into an ad for GEICO homeowner's insurance:
- In one, the cow who jumped over the moon crashes down through someone's roof; luckily, the owner was insured with GEICO.
- In another, the Itsy Bitsy Spider's home is flooded as a result of a clogged downspout, and his mattress is ruined; thanks to GEICO, he now has a "Sleep Number" bed. His sleep number is 25.
- A burglar breaks into Little Miss Muffet's house and steals her tuffets, which were fortunately insured. The burglar was later caught, given away by a whey stain.
Near the end of 2010, a new advertising campaign began made up of amateurish computer animated advertisements, supposedly made in 15 minutes, created with the computer software program Xtranormal.
This campaign shows two people in a sticky situation. One of them is not as worried as the other, explaining "I'm looking on the brighter side. I save over 15% on my car insurance by switching to GEICO." Commercials from this campaign include:
- A magician feels guilty for sawing his assistant in half.
- A woman and her neighbor observe a fallen giant in the middle of her garden.
- Two fisherman are being abducted by aliens and fear what the aliens are going to do with them.
- Divers have been swallowed by a whale.
Get Happy, Get GEICO
Starting in 2012 until mid 2013, GEICO ran TV commercials in which bluegrass pickers named Ronnie (played by director/musician Alex Harvey) and Jimmy (played by actor/comedian Timothy Ryan Cole) talk about how happy saving money on insurance can make someone do certain things intended to be humorous:
- Happier than Gallagher at a Farmer's Market: Gallagher runs amok at a farmer's market, smashing watermelons with a huge mallet and laughing maniacally.
- Happier than a Bodybuilder Directing Traffic: A smiling bodybuilder is standing in an intersection and directing traffic while striking poses.
- Happier than Christopher Columbus with Speedboats: Christopher Columbus is shown on a speeding motoboat, accompanied by two other boats, while a crew member looks seasick.
- Happier than Eddie Money running a travel agency: A family is shown sitting in front of a desk in an office. An excited Eddie Money is then shown behind the desk holding airline tickets, where he begins singing (a capella), "Two Tickets to Paradise" while the family appears increasingly annoyed.
- Happier than a Witch at a Broom Factory: A witch is seen flying around on a broom inside of a broom factory. She lands and demands another broom from one of the employees and begins flying again, laughing and having fun.
- Happier than a Slinky on an Escalator: A Slinky is seen stepping backwards on an up escalator. While the Slinky goes backwards, others try to avoid it as they go to work and the slinky says "This is Awesome!"
- Happier than an Antelope with Nightvision Goggles: Two antelopes are seen watching a lion through nightvision goggles. The two are secretly laughing at the lion and his poor stealth skills (they incorrectly and sarcastically label the lion as "king of the jungle" - the correct term is "king of beasts").
- Happier than Dikembe Mutombo Blocking a Shot: Dikembe Mutombo appears blocking various things that people throw, such as a crumpled piece of paper, a pile of laundry, and a box of cereal. The GEICO Logo then appears and Mutombo knocks off the "G". It's "EICO" now.
- Happier than Paul Revere with a Cell Phone: Paul Revere who is inside a home in Concord, Massachusetts, notices a bell ringing from a church. As he looks out the window, he calls on his cell phone and warns that the British are coming. Afterwards, he returns to his guests and plays charades.
- Happier than Dracula Volunteering at a Blood Drive: At a blood drive, Dracula asks a man his blood type and what he ate today. The man replies either A or B positive and that he ate Lebanese food. Dracula says that he loves the Lebanese. He then excitedly decides to skip the formalities and "get started". He is then seen following the man out at the end.
- Happier than the Pillsbury Doughboy on his way to a Baking Convention: At an airport, the Pillsbury Doughboy is going through airport security, but every time the security guard tries to pat him down, he is easily tickled. He promises to hold it together, but keeps failing. Once he gets on his way, the Doughboy sings along as Ronny and Jimmy continue playing the guitar.
- Happier than a Camel on Wednesday: At an office, a camel asks workers what day it is. A woman (originally named Leslie) tells him that it is Hump Day. The camel whoops with excitement. This commercial soon received over 22 million views on YouTube and inspired a popular meme. The camel appeared in the pregame show of Super Bowl XLVIII where he was named Caleb. Caleb also appeared with the Gecko in a crossover ad with M&M's.
Did You Know?
Starting in 2013 and running until the end of 2014, a series of commercials was broadcast in which one person reads a GEICO "15 percent" ad and a second person says "Everybody knows that," to which the first person says, "Well, did you know..." followed by an amusing (and fictional) "fact" which is then illustrated in a cutaway scene.
- Did You Know That Some Owls Aren't That Wise?: An owl is talking to her owl husband about her friend Megan, and the husband owl keeps saying, "Who?"
- Did You Know Old MacDonald Was a Really Bad Speller?: Old MacDonald is a contestant in a spelling bee, and is asked to spell "cow". He spells it "C-O-W, E-I-E-I-O." The buzzer goes off, indicating that he's wrong, and he exclaims, "Dangnabbit" and exits the stage, exasperated.
- Did you know the Ancient Pyramids were actually a mistake?: An overseer is monitoring the construction of the Pyramids when he looks at the blueprints and sees that they were supposed to be cubes. He then says, "Uh-oh."
- Did you know that when a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, it does make a sound?: An anthropomorphized tree starts to tip, leading the tree to start shouting that it's going to fall. As it falls, the tree screams until it hits the ground. The tree then asks, "A little help?"
- Did You Know There Is an Oldest Trick in the Book?: In the Medieval era, an old man reads to a young apprentice from a large book: "Trick Number One... Lookest over there." The apprentice looks in the direction indicated, and the old man says, "Ha-ha! Made-est thou look. So end-eth the trick."
- Did You Know Auctioneers Make Bad Grocery Store Clerks?: A cashier in a grocery store tells a customer what the total of her purchase is, then starts rapidly "auctioning" it, taking bids from the woman and the man in line behind her.
- Did You Know Pinocchio Was a Bad Motivational Speaker?: A life-size Pinocchio gives a speech about noticing untapped potential. He points to a select few saying, "You have potential", but his nose grows every time, shocking the audience and indicating that he was lying.
- Did You Know Bad News Doesn't Always Travel Fast?: A boss, personified as a snail, fires one of his employees, Todd. He then says, "Well, gotta run", and slowly crawls away.
- Did You Know Game Show Hosts Should Only Host Game Shows?: A game show host delivers the wedding vows at a wedding, but he asks the bride if she takes her husband or a new sports car, at which point the camera cuts to the car being given away as a prize. She dumps her husband for the car right there at the altar.
- Did You Know Playing Cards with Kenny Rogers Gets Old Pretty Fast?: Rogers plays poker while singing the lyrics from "The Gambler", which annoys the others.
- Did You Know Words Really Can Hurt You?: A cowboy breaks up with his girlfriend, and rides off into the sunset, but when the words "The End" appear, he crashes into the "E" in "End" and is knocked off his horse.
- Did You Know the Great Wall of China Wasn't Always So Great?: An army of Mongols ride up to a fence-sized Wall of China. After a few moments of contemplation, they simply step over it and proceed on their way.
- Did You Know Former Pro Football Player Ickey Woods Will Celebrate Almost Anything?: Woods is seen at a deli counter and does his touchdown dance, the Ickey Shuffle, and yells out, "Gonna get some cold cuts today!" when his number 44 is called.
- Did You Know Certain Cartoon Characters Should Never Have an Energy Drink?: A commercial for an energy drink is being filmed, starring the Tasmanian Devil; after drinking the product, he spins out of control and leaves the set. The GEICO ad appears to be over. We then see an entirely different commercial in another room, advertising the 50 state bird hand-painted china plate collection. It is then promptly given a "bull in a china shop" treatment when Taz bursts through the wall from the other commercial and demolishes the plates and displays.
- Did You Know Genies Can Be Really Literal?: A man finds a genie in a lamp and wishes for "a million bucks", clearly meaning "$1 million". The genie proceeds to grant him a million male deers. This bit was extended into a web series.
It's What You Do
Starting in 2014, a series of TV ads showed people doing something silly or absurd while a voice-over announcer says, "If (you're) [. . .], you [. . .]. It's what you do. If you want to save 15% or more on car insurance, you switch to GEICO. It's what you do."
- If You're In a Horror Movie, You Make Poor Decisions: Four teenagers representing characters in a generic horror movie are running from a madman near an eerie farmhouse. They argue about whether to hide in the basement or the attic of the house, and when one girl suggests they get into the conveniently running car just behind them, the others call her crazy. Someone else suggests they go into the barn filled with chainsaws, and as they hide there the madman lurking behind them shakes his head at their stupidity.
- If You're Salt-N-Pepa, You Tell People to Push It: Salt-N-Pepa sing "Push It" to various people, including a businessman at the entrance doors, a woman on an elevator, a pregnant woman practicing the Lamaze technique, football players pushing against tackling dummies, and a man mowing his front lawn.
- If You're a Camel, You Put Up with This All the Time: In reference to the viral "Hump Day" ad, a bunch of people at the zoo quote the ad to the camels, who are annoyed by it. One camel, named Phil, even complains that it is not even Wednesday.
- If Something Goes Wrong, You Find a Scapegoat: At a peanut butter factory, the machines act haywire. The boss asks who is to blame, and a worker points to a goat named Rick, who then screamed.
- If You're a Free Range Chicken, You Roam Free: A chicken travels the world and texts selfies to its owners.
- If You're a Cat, You Ignore People: A guy out in the desert falls into some quicksand, sees a cat and asks it for help, but the cat just stands there.
- If You're Dora the Explorer, You Explore: A group of people struggle against harsh polar conditions to travel to the South Pole, but just as they're about to plant their flag to stake their claim, they find that Dora the Explorer and Boots are already there to greet them. The travelers walk away while Dora and Boots do a dance and say, "You did it! Yay!"
- If You're a Fisherman, You Tell Tales: A fisherman exaggerates the day he caught a small fish.
- If Your Boss Stops By, You Act Like You're Working: In medieval times, a group of armored knights led by an imposing leader enter a room lit only by torches. He's come to check on the progress of his men with their interrogation of a prisoner who is strapped to a large table. The two men sternly reply that the prisoner will tell them everything very shortly as they each hold a sharp, pointy weapon. As soon as the leader and his entourage take off, however, a bunch of other men emerge from their hiding spots and the group resumes their pingpong match on the table. As it turns out, the prisoner is acting as their net and keeping score the entire time.
What's Your Reason?
Debuted in late 2014, these spots sing various reasons why you didn't contact GEICO to save money on insurance.
- Windstorm: Windstorm took out power, dog needed a shower, dropped your laptop off a tower (the leaning Tower of Pisa is implied).
- Rattlesnake: Rattlesnake ate your phone, you sat in the whale-splash zone (the Sea World attraction's "Shamu Show" is implied), left your dog home alone (dog is shown burying a tablet in a hole).
- Bees: Computer is covered in bees, you spilled hot nacho cheese, phone blew away in a breeze.
- Party: Friends threw you a party, new smartphone not so smarty (gives bad GPS directions), arrived at work a little tardy.
- Convertible: Movie made you distracted, convertible's top retracted, cellphone became inactive.
- Fleas: Laptop carried off by fleas, phone chewed up by a Pekingese, had a spat with chimpanzees.
The ad campaign was developed by DCP Productions.
Debuted in 2015, These ads employ a satire of the technique of frame freezing, by showing live actors attempting to mimic a freeze-frame, often in awkward positions and sometimes assisted by intentionally visible stunt tools, such as suspension cords when paused in mid-air.
- Family: At the dinner table, a mother tells her family that they can "thank the savings". During the freeze-frame, the family dog starts eating from the father's plate.
- High Five: Two friends celebrate saving money by performing a jumping high-five. During the freeze-frame, the stunt wires become visible and one of the actors' feet catches fire.
- Cleaning Crew: A janitor mishears a businessman saying "savings". He loses control of the vacuum cleaner which runs over the cord and causes the electricity to short out.
- Elevator: Two businessmen shake hands in an elevator. A woman enters the elevator asking to get off at the second floor, but the men are in a freeze-frame so she must press the button herself.
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- Hart, Hugh (October 26, 2010), "Video: Robo-Talking Superhero Ad Uses Text-to-Voice Trick", Wired
- Gallagher ad at YouTube
- "GEICO Bodybuilder Commercial - Happier Than a Body Builder Directing Traffic". YouTube. 2012-08-03. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "GEICO Christopher Columbus Commercial - Happier Than Christopher Columbus with Speedboats". YouTube. 2012-08-16. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "GEICO Two Tickets to Paradise Commercial - Happier Than Eddie Money Running a Travel Agency". YouTube. 2012-08-24. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "GEICO Witch Commercial - Happier Than a Witch in a Broom Factory". YouTube. 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "GEICO Slinky Commercial - Happier Than A Slinky On An Escalator". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "GEICO Night Vision Commercial - Happier than an Antelope with Night Vision Goggles". YouTube. 2012-11-01. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "GEICO Dikembe Mutombo Commercial - Happier Than Dikembe Mutombo Blocking a Shot". YouTube. 2013-02-01. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Did You Know" ads on YouTube
- "GEICO: Did You Know Game Show Hosts should only host game shows?"
- GEICO Taz energy drink commercial at MarketMeNot.com