GEICO's new television campaign is more about Gecko

The Martin Agency just released a new GEICO television campaign – or, more accurately, a new Gecko campaign.

Because the seven-commercial campaign promises to be far less about the product than its mascot.

A commercial about a commercial

After one sentence and visual about insurance, the first spot takes viewers behind the scenes, as it were, as the computer-generated lizard steps away from the backdrop and onto the green-screened part of the set that’s “off-camera.”

He then talks about his computer-generated coffee cup and how awful computer-generated coffee tastes.

Selling the presenter

This is at least the 66th television commercial starring the lizard, and as senior vice president/senior copywriter Bob Meagher told the Richmond Times Dispatch (in an interview unavailable online), it’s all about giving the Gecko “more off-screen attitude” and “making him more lovable” with “more facial expressions and more emotion than ever.”

You have to look hard to see any of these new facial expressions and emotions in the first spot, but maybe they’ll be more visible in the next six.

Money isn’t everything

With a budget of just under $1 billion last year, GEICO’s the biggest insurance advertiser, spending more than insurance companies whose commercials are about insurance.

At least a third of that budget goes to Gecko advertising (one of three campaigns running simultaneously). Not too shabby for a concept that struggled for years tpo win internal agency approval and saw the light of day only when the 1999 Screen Actors Guild strike made live actors unavailable.

In its core product, car insurance, GEICO enjoys an 8.5% share of market this year.

State Farm, which spends 22% less, leads the category, with more than twice that share – 18.7%. Allstate, which spends less than State Farm, also has a bigger market share than GEICO – 10.2% of current auto policies in  force.

It’s true that GEICO’s sales and market share have grown substantially over the past two decades. And it’s also true that over the past 13 years, the Gecko has become a well-known brand icon.

But you could also make a case that the campaign’s doing more for Gecko than for GEICO.