GEICO advertising campaigns

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GEICO advertising campaigns are known for using humor and satire, often featuring distinctive characters such as the company's mascot, the GEICO gecko.[1] 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."[2]

Warren Buffett, owner of GEICO parent Berkshire Hathaway, has stated that he would spend $2 billion on GEICO ads if he could,[3] 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).[4]

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.

Animated advertisements[edit]

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.[5] 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."[6]

The GEICO Gecko[edit]

The company's ads sometimes focus on its reptilian mascot, The Gecko, an anthropomorphic Day Gecko created by The Martin Agency, later modified to a CGI creature by Framestore CFC. The gecko first appeared in 1999 during the Screen Actors Guild strike that prevented the use of live actors.[7] 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[8] (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.[9] "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."[7]

Maxwell the Pig[edit]

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.

GEICO Cavemen[edit]

Main article: GEICO Cavemen

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[10] 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, 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?"

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.

In response to some of the parody ads, Seth Green and Matthew Senreich wrote a sketch using the character C in a parody of one of the celebrity ads for their second Robot Chicken Star Wars special.

MADtv also made a sketch parodying these ads using characters of Elmo (who was performed by Frank Caeti) and Carlos Mencia (who was played by Johnny Sanchez).

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"[edit]

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.

Bland salesman[edit]

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,[11] 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[edit]

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 celebrities included

The slogan exclusive to this campaign is "GEICO: Real service, real savings".

Blueprint commercials[edit]

GEICO also has 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[edit]

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.[12]

GEICO Racing[edit]

The number 7 car of the NASCAR Nationwide Series is driven by Mike Wallace and was sponsored by GEICO prior to 2009.[13][14] 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.[15] 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.'"[16]

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.

15 Minutes Online[edit]

Reminiscent of the old "Stupid Things" commercials, these show videos of people doing stupid things, such as running in hallways with pillows, done YouTube style. YouTube celebrity Brandon Hardesty also appeared in one such commercial, which included a clip from one of his famous Strange Faces videos.

TRS: The Real Scoop[edit]

Introduced in September, 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, 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.

The money you could be saving[edit]

In 2008, GEICO began airing a series of television ads featuring "the money you could be saving", in the form of two paper-banded stacks of U.S. banknotes with a pair of Googly eyes on top. In some commercials, someone discovers this character sitting nearby, and in others it simply stares at the camera while a voice-over talks about how it wants you to save money. These ads includes a remix[17] by Mysto & Pizzi of the 1980s song "Somebody's Watching Me". During the Halloween 2009 season, GEICO tied in with HBO's True Blood series on bus bench ads and dressed up Kash in fang dentures.

Talking inanimate objects[edit]

In 2009, GEICO began a series of commercials featuring talking inanimate objects doing damage to cars. So far, they have used a talking tree limb falling on a windshield and breaking it. The tree limb makes fun of the car right before a smaller limb falls on the hood.

The next one is a talking pothole with a thick southern belle accent causing a flat tire. The pothole somewhat apologizes then says she'll get her cell phone out and call a wrecker before realizing that she doesn't have one because she's a pothole.

Rhetorical Questions Campaign[edit]

Toward the end of 2009 until early 2012, GEICO introduced another advertising campaign in which Mike McGlone walks into an empty room and queries the viewer, "Could switching to GEICO really save you 15% or more on car insurance?" After this, he pauses and then asks a rhetorical and/or obvious question which is immediately followed by a scene cut to the subject at hand.

Television ads[edit]

Radio ads[edit]

Another series of radio ads that debuted around the time of the rhetorical questions campaign air as part of two daily news factoids. One concerns business news and the other is an "on this day in history"-style piece referred to as "Today in Time." Two fifteen-second ads featuring the Gecko are played during the spots.

Short Stories and Tall Tales[edit]

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:


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.[28]

Easier Way to Save[edit]

Starting in the summer of 2011, a new series of advertising involved people discovering unusual ways to save money.[29]

Television commercials:

Radio commercials:

Brighter Side[edit]

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 bright side. I save 15% on my car insurance by switching to GEICO." Commercials from this campaign include:

Get Happy, Get GEICO[edit]

Starting in 2012 until mid 2013, GEICO ran TV commercials in which bluegrass pickers named Ronny (played by director/musician Alex Harvey) and Jimmy (played by actor/comedian Timothy Ryan Cole), respectively, talk about how happy saving money on insurance can make someone, and using examples intended to be humorous:

Museum of Modern Insurance[edit]

This campaign involves paintings in a museum talking to each other. It is also known as the "GEICO Portraits Gallery".

Did You Know?[edit]

Starting in 2013, 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.[43]

It's What You Do[edit]


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