This is arguably a follow-up to my earlier post “Surrealism and Sales,” in which I explained what made Mountain Dew’s fever dream of a Superbowl Commercial, “Puppymonkeybaby” an ineffective advertisement. Given that I usually write about movies and television shows, one may wonder, why would I write about a commercial instead? Simply put, I think that advertising, at its core, is a fascinating field that encourages use of creativity in order to sell a product.
But not Geico’s commercials. Geico’s commercials are the death of creative thinking.
In lieu of stupid mascots, like the Gecko or the Caveman or what have you, Geico commercials have been getting more amusing over the past few months. But that doesn’t make them better commercials (I’ll touch upon that more in a bit). Their recent favorite line of advertising has been: “If you’re a _______ you ________. It’s what you do. If you swtich your car insurance to Geico, you save money. It’s what you do.” This is a lazy idea, and it has yielded some pretty useless commercials. Let’s take a look at a few:
Here’s one involving butt dialing? I have various problems with this: first and foremost, there’s nothing that’s funny about it, and it’s impossible to believe that a person would answer their phone in the middle of a proposal, no matter how many times it rang.
Here’s one with a pirate crew. “If you’re a parrot, you repeat stuff. It’s what you do. If you swtich your car insurance to Geico, you save money. It’s what you do.”
Here’s one that is legitimately funny, in which a couple of kids play “Marco Polo” in a pool while Italian explorer Marco Polo tries to figure out what the hell’a going on. It’s very amusing, but I suppose if you dig through enough dirt, you’ll eventually hit gold. But the problem is still there; this isn’t an insurance commercial, it’s an internet skit with a Geico logo at the end. The focus isn’t on what they’re selling, so it fundamentally fails as an advertisement.
There are also equally stupid ones, involving Peter Pan or Tarzan, but I think I’ve made my point.
Now, of course, I’ve heard the typical rebuttal to this gripe. “But you’re talking about it! Doesn’t that means that the advertisement works?!” No, it doesn’t. We’re talking about the commercial, not the product. You’re not selling a commercial, you’re selling a product.
Not much better is Progressive, which has gradually devolved into a mess of similar skits. At least the Flo character was created as an Insurance Salesperson, with the intent of selling insurance, rather than just being some kind of mascot. And as much as I wanted to include them in this post, I can’t, because their commercials include actual conversations about the product they’re selling.
I will be the first to admit that insurance, as opposed to whatever you might be watching on television when you see this commercial, is certainly nothing riveting. They have to just go for entertainment without actually talking insurance because they’d bore you to death, right? You can’t make a commercial that’s interesting, amusing, and helps to show the strength of your produce of your product is insurance, right?
Wrong. Look no further than commercials for Farmers Insurance, featuring Oscar Winner J.K. Simmons.
I love the Farmers commercials because they hit all the right beats; they’ve got star power, since most people will likely recognize Simmons from Whiplash or Spiderman or one his voice roles like The Legend of Korra or the M&M commercials. They’ve got a jingle. They’re amusing, even if you might not chuckle at them. But more importantly than all of that, they actually tell the viewer something about the policies they’re selling, all the various sorts of crazy shit they cover.
My point being this: I’m more inclined to buy something from a company that uses advertising to actually explain how and why their product works, rather than just assuming I’ll buy from a company that treats their advertising team like a sketch comedy group. Step up your game, Geico.