How the GEICO Gecko Leveraged Affective AND Resonance Advertising

Lions? Tigers? Bears….what….Geckos? This New Jersey advertising agency has seen some interesting creative strategies over the years, but when we saw a Gecko, well, we just weren’t sure. But….after all these years, that little gecko is still going strong!

resonance-advertisingFace it: if a very small lizard with very large eyes started talking to you—with a working-class British accent, no less—and told you that you could save 15 percent or more on your car insurance, you would either run screaming for the exits or reach for the nearest 5-iron (the natural enemy of the gecko).

But fortunately for the sanity of us all, the GEICO gecko exits only within the realm of advertising, and a particular subgenre of advertising at that: affective ads, designed to put a grin on viewers’ faces, and trust in their hearts, by using humor, whimsy or satire. GEICO, part of the Berkshire Hathaway empire, spends a lot of money on advertising—some $745 million in 2010, according to Kantar Media. And most of its ads over the past ten years have been affective in nature, including the memorable GEICO Caveman spots that spawned a short-lived TV sitcom; its 2006 parodies of commercials and infomercials; and the alleged money-saving tips campaign that include putting a daughter’s goldfish on the family sushi menu.

Credit GEICO’s ad firm, the Martin Agency, with the creative spark behind most of these campaigns.  But give GEICO a round of applause for using humor as a way to get us to buy a product that all drivers need to have. It’s not exactly an impulse purchase; it’s a hedge against the possibility of roadway disasters large and small. We don’t like to think about car insurance, except when rates are raised, and then we get nice and loud with our disapproval.

But then the soft-spoken little gecko—“Martin,” as he’s known around the company headquarters—comes on your TV screen in the latest variation of his campaigns, and all is temporarily forgiven. That’s the beauty of affective advertising. And the beauty of this particular character is that he’s outlasted the GEICO Caveman (whose grumpiness wore out his welcome because, dude, you keep equating that sloping forehead with low intelligence) and the stereotypical anchorman-type who asks questions like, “Can switching to Geico really save you 15 percent or more on your car insurance? Does Elmer Fudd have trouble with the letter ‘R?’ ”

It can also be argued that GEICO’s successful use of affective campaigns prompted auto insurance competitor Progressive to try and make a low-level star out of Stephanie Courtney, who plays the very-eager-to-assist-you salesperson Flo in that company’s ads.

But Flo can be occasionally annoying. Martin the gecko, on the other hand, is the perfect every reptile, padding his way over the Brooklyn Bridge or the streets of Chicago with his soft-sell approach to car insurance.

In nature, certain birds can probably swallow a gecko whole. But in TV ad-land, Martin the gecko eats the AFLAC duck’s lunch.

CI-Group, a New Jersey advertising agency, provides digital marketing and advertising consulting to Fortune 2000 companies in a wide range of industries. Founded nearly 30 years ago and based in Whitehouse, N.J., CI-Group is recognized as a top advertising agency specializing in marketing strategies, event marketing, promotions, direct marketing, digital printing, warehousing and fulfillment. Companies seeking an award-winning interactive agency thatmerges creative strategies with effective tactics should call 908-534-6100 or visit

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