Commentary

Geico's New Ads: Still Unskippable Amid The Unwatchable

Commercials have been around for 95 years and it’s probably safe to say that if you asked people if they like them, most people would say, or scream, no.

The Internet has tried to solve this marketing dilemma, mainly by inflicting more torture.  

One of the handiest forms is the list of “top,” “best” or “worst” whatevers--cities, hangover remedies, cars, football uniforms, places to work,, weather women--displayed as clickable pages that always cut off a piece of detail until you move your cursor down to read the caption or information block.  Forbes has many of them that get re-circulated on Facebook  like carpet mites. They’re horrible.

But that device, and the bottom-of-the-page story teasers that often feature incredibly misleading headlines or photos or both, serve as good example of how contemptible advertisers value their potential customers: If they can trick you into watching “10 Stars Who Were Incredibly Ugly Children,”  how hard can it be to sell you their goods?  

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As many people, including me, have mentioned before, ad blockers didn’t just show up help conserve time on my data plan. In a way, those bad ad forms, and ad blockers are doing something  good: They’re forcing better advertising that you might at least occasionally watch, or ads that have an agreeably benign presence that you don’t hate them on general historic principle.  That's a good thing.

The New York Times reports that American Express paying to occupy what would be “commercial time” to extend bits within today’s episodes of NBC’s “The Voice,” the “Today” show and “Late Night with Seth Myers” telecasts. That arrangement cuts clutter and associates the credit card with offering something of value to viewers.

Here's another. Geico’s “Unskippable” ad last year won the top prize at Cannes by doing everything right. It delivered its message in four or five seconds, and then cleverly, kept viewers watching after the commercial had seemingly stopped. It’s a classic that matched form to function.

“Our goal is to bring attention to Geico in a space that is often hated,” Joe Alexander, chief creative officer at The Martin Agency, which produced the ads, told Netimperative.com.

Likewise, a new batch of Geico ads out today and highlighted in AdAge and Adweek, extend that unskippable concept by seemingly zipping through the ad for us.

In the new commercials, an actor pitches the bare-boned Geico message before a voice over stops it and intones, “We now fast forward this ad so you can get to your video faster.” Then we see the “conclusion” of the ad--a perplexingly non sequitur to the small snippet we saw before.

As an an example, in the first five seconds of a one 15-second spot, two old timers are casting their lines in a fishing boat, and do one sentence worth of “pitch”  before the phony fast-forward.  In the concluding scene, they’re both mounted on the wall of a rustic cabin; below, a large fish is relaxing in an easy chair reading a newspaper. The Geico logo appears, with an invitation, “Click to see what happened.” If you do, a longer version is served up. You can end up watching a Geico ad for a minute or more. There are four ads in Geico's new "Fast Forward" campaign.

What’s so laudable about these ads, and the ones that came a year before them, is that Geico has taken the problem--the huge majority of viewers who that skip ads--and addressed it creatively (and got earned media to boot). I come out of the message with a positive impression, not the feeling that I’ve just been used. So many more advertisers, and sites, could learn a lesson from that.


pj@mediapost.com

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