Thursday, February 19, 2015

When you're Geico, you beat jokes into the ground. It's what you do.

Geico has always been somewhat unusual among advertisers in that they tend to run multiple campaigns at once. Even today, you can see Geico spots that still feature the gecko, the "everybody knows that" spots, the weirdly earnest animated ones that seem aimed at the Esurance crowd, and the "it's what you do" ads. Like this one:

Even by the standards of marketers whose idea of brilliance is "We thought of four things you can push, and Salt-N-Pepa are on line two," this is stupendously lazy. I don't really know who was the chicken and who was the egg here, but remember the Super Bowl? Remember how there were not one but TWO spots featuring beloved (?) Internet sensation (??) "goats that scream like humans?" Yeah. There were TWO. Sprint did one that might not even feature a goat (looks more like a sheep). And then Discover also did one. It's like every time two movie studios release nearly identical movies within six months of each other and you're like "Did we even need ONE movie about Steve Prefontaine?"

In some ways, Geico's ad is the best of these three, since the other two really have no jokes other than the screams themselves, which I hasten to add are not jokes. Geico, God bless 'em, actually kind of tried. But come on. All that setup, this complicated factory set, for a joke about how the word "scapegoat" has the word "goat" in it? Hey, what if a scapegoat were a REAL goat? I mean, there's literally no actual joke there, because that's where the word scapegoat FUCKING COMES FROM. I don't expect the Geico ad people to be Biblical scholars - or scholars of anything, really, up to and including ads - but Googling "scapegoat" and finding out that it's not a coincidence takes two seconds. The alternative is that they knew that "scapegoat" had something to do with actual goats in the first place and didn't care because it was such a "great" setup to get that goat scream in there. In which case, fuck them.

It doesn't help matters that this is at least the fourth ad in the "it's what you do" series. Geico is known for draining every last drop of life and humor from their campaigns, and this is no exception. I think the horror movie spot was the first in this series, and it wasn't terrible, as these things go. The Salt-N-Pepa one is okay, I guess. Then you got the camel one, which...

I mean, holy shit, right? It's bad enough that Geico can't stop reusing concepts - now they have to (a) reference their own old ads and (b) editorialize that everyone remembers and loves them? (I suppose I might buy that a few yahoos have screamed "Guess what day it is" at zoo camels in the years since that ad first aired, but literally everyone at the zoo? Also, no one is so intimately familiar with that ad that they're referencing throwaway lines like "Mike Mike Mike!") But then, when most of the purpose behind running five hundred different ads at one time is to see what sticks with people, and then reusing that over and over again, I guess I can't be surprised that anything that had any kind of legs was ridden to death. Like this:

I'm glad for Ickey Woods that he's getting a few paychecks after playing his last NFL game in 1991, but it's kind of amazing that Geico went with this reference at all. I guess when you run as many ads as Geico, you can afford to have one of your five simultaneous campaigns focus on a 25-year-old athletic footnote. And then make all your ads in that campaign about his legendary (???) love of cold cuts. (Woods' Wikipedia page claims that he has been a sales representative for a meat company during his post-NFL career, so maybe this is the weirdest kind of cross-promotion?) I mean, the initial Woods ad, like many initial Geico ads, was mildly amusing. But seriously, go on YouTube and look at all the shit they've got him in. There are literally four different "What's Cooking" videos like the one above, ALL OF WHICH ARE JUST COLD CUTS JOKES. For real. Or there are EIGHT "Ickey Reflections" videos. The main 30-second one, again, isn't awful. I would probably have chuckled to see it on TV:

That's a reasonable follow-up to the initial Ickey ad. This, however, is not:


Geico has had some funny ads over the years. But given how many they put out, it tends to make them look more like a blind squirrel than a squad of hilarious jokesters. I'm sure we're all excited to see what quarter-century-old reference they can exhume next, though! Here are some suggestions:

"When you're Wilson Phillips, you tell people to hold on. It's what you do."

"When you're Dan Quayle, you add letters to the end of words. It's what you do."

"When you're Macaulay Culkin, you booby-trap your house against burglars. It's what you do."

"When you're the Berlin Wall, you get torn down. It's what you do."

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