Gecko as Avatar to the All Consuming Self

Q What is your favourite current campaign?

A GEICO. How can you not love its cheeky green spokes-gecko? He has helped the company rise to become the third-largest car insurance company in the U.S. His posh Down Under accent sets him apart, and as an authority figure, he is a lot more manageable than a Michael Vick or a Lindsay Lohan. This issue of Fortune magazine features him in a full-page ad, wearing Warren Buffett’s trademark glasses. The headline describes him as Warren Buffett’s green protege.( National Post, Ron Telpner, Brainstorm Group )geico-500

What is your favourite campaign of all time?

A After more than 30 years in the business, I’ve seen lots of campaigns that are remarkable and memorable. From our own work, I think my favourite is the Mike’s Hard Lemonade campaign. But my all-time favourite is still Bill Bernbach’s honest twist campaign for Volkswagen. It was brave and engaging advertising.

Occasionally, the Geico ads, created by the Martin Advertising Agency, have been able to break into pop culture.The Geico Gecko was voted as the favorite advertising icon in the U.S. recently along with Juan Valdez as part of Advertising Week in New York. Its success has forced other financial related advertising to adopt similar off-beat and slightly absurd approaches as well in selling their commodities.geico-100

“We created a character from the ground up,” says Joe Lawson, 37, the ad writer. It was the ad agency’s idea that the gecko should lose its aristocratic English accent and get an East London cockney accent, become an everyman. “A young Michael Caine, that was almost the casting spec.” Lawson went to London last year to find the perfect voice. That and the animation took three and a half months all told, “a ridiculous amount of time to make a commercial,” he adds. The animator was the same one, Frameworks, that did the Harry Potter movies.

… The makers sought a very natural icon, a “total normal human being trapped in the body of a gecko—adding something new to the genre of icon,” Lawson says. No Pillsbury doughboy, no caricature, nothing “hopped up on pills, needingRitalin.” The character was to be “relaxed, self-assured, not obnoxious, not selling you.” The actor’s voice would slur words, even stammer, the way a real person stops and starts. And the animator used as its model Lawson himself, a lowkey guy with a certain delicacy who by then had begun to inhabit the character. 

More form Bill Bernbach who defined modern advertising which integrated the literary and visual arts into a the broader context of marketing and sales promotion:

“Merely to let your imagination run riot, to dream unrelated dreams, to indulge in graphic acrobatics and verbal gymnastics is not being creative. The creative person has harnessed his imagination. He has disciplined it so that every thought, every idea, every line he draws, every light and shadow in every photograph he takes, makes more vivid, more believable, more persuasive the original theme or product advantage he has decided he must convey.”

Modern advertising or post modern advertising is still essentially in the template created by Edward Bernays some 80 years ago where the intrinsic virtue of the product, though plausibly real, was relegated to secondary status in the message; replaced by a need to modify customs like Bill Bernbach achieved with Volkswagen Beetles in the late 1950′s. The theme was to present the consumers choice as if it was their own idea, a response and consequence of the mechanisms the marketer has put in place. 

” Bernays sold Mozart pianos,

r example, not just by hyping the pianos. Rather he sought carefully ‘to develop public acceptance of the idea of a music room in the home’, selling the piano indirectly, through various suggestive trends and enterprises that make it de rigeur to have the proper space for a piano”. ( Propaganda, Edward Bernays, 1928, Introduction )

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