Geico Teams With Zoos For Tours, Launches New Ads

The Government Employees Insurance Company (better known as Geico), the No. 4 auto insurer in the U.S., launched a campaign Friday that includes TV ads and a road show of real versions of the South Pacific lizard that serves--in cartoon form--as the company's mascot.

The effort, with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the San Diego Zoo, includes a nationwide tour of a live gecko exhibit to other zoos and aquariums, and a series of animated television commercials, via Richmond, Va.-based Martin Agency, Geico's creative AOR for 14 years. The new spots are running on Geico's TV media buy. New York-based Horizon Media handles.

The campaign is part of a three-year partnership with the AZA.

The TV ads feature the computer-generated Aussie gecko the company has been using as its brand icon since 1998. In this case, the two 30-second TV spots have the lizard talking to unresponsive--real--zoo creatures.

In one, the gecko is attempting to have a conversation with a jellyfish in an aquarium. "Me? Well, I help people save money on car insurance, and I support wildlife conservation," he says, before commenting on how odd it is to talk to an animal with no face. Another one has him talking to a sea lion.



Geico will also be a lead sponsor for AZA's Earth Day Party for the Planet events during Earth Day in April at 150 zoos and aquariums in the U.S. and Canada.

In the last three or four years the company has taken a multi-storyline approach, using the cavemen characters to appeal to college-age kids, the gecko for everyone, and celebrities juxtaposed with real people in testimonials to reach older consumers. The tagline has remained as: "15 minutes will save you 15% or more on car insurance."

Ted Ward, vice president/advertising at Geico, says the company uses this approach because "we run considerable media weight and advertise to a broad demographic (essentially anyone who drives a car), [so] multiple story lines have something for almost everyone, and each campaign only has to drive home one or two simple points." He says the gecko is all about savings, the testimonial campaign is all about Geico's claims service, and the cavemen are about the ease of using

Ward says the Washington, D.C.-based company went from just under $3 billion in premiums in 1996 to over $11 billion in 2006.

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