Geico Takes Famous Gecko From TV Ads to Digital Documentary

The Geico Gecko has for years boosted the near-ubiquitous insurance company’s advertising, Now Geico is doing something to boost him.

Geico on Thursday will unveil “Legend of the Lizard,” a 15-minute documentary on the character’s (fictional) childhood and origins, giving consumers new insight into the animated figure that has since 2000 urged TV viewers to make a quick call to get various kinds of insurance. Those who see it will meet the creature’s childhood best friend, his coach, some of his co-workers, and people who have been inspired by him, The famous Geico Caveman also makes an appearance, offering some cautionary tales about the price of fame.

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There is more to come in 2024, vows Damon Burrell, the company’s chief marketing officer, during an interview.  “We want to continue to maintain the brand love and brand association and brand sentiment, and keep it at a high level,” he says.

Geico has been for years one of TV’s biggest advertisers, but, in a twist, its recent TV commercials have tried to whet appetites for the documentary, which will run on YouTube, with shorter versions on TikTok. Indeed, Geico will show a truncated version of the documentary across four 30-second ads that appear during CBS’ pre-game coverage of Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday in a bid to get people to seek out the longform counterpart. Geico is expected to be a title sponsor of one of the half-hours leading into the Big Game, according to people familiar with the matter.

In recent weeks, Geico has worked to seed the ground for the documentary’s debut. On Saturday, December 23, the company put the Caveman back in a TV ad after a decade-long hiatus, in a two-minute-long spot that ran during an NBC broadcast of an NFL game. It’s the longest ad Geico has ever put in a TV commercial break. In the spot, the Caveman reveals he has been asked to take part in a new Geico documentary.

“We are really taking advantage of all the different formats that are available, primarily to meet our consumers where they are,” says Burrell, nodding to the increasing comfort people have with watching digital video via mobile devices. Advertisers have begun to experiment with creating their own content, in the belief they can launch short films and vignettes that are more compelling that formulaic TV ads.

Since the Gecko debuted, many insurance advertisers have ramped up similar efforts. Now Geico’s many characters — the company has unveiled many figures and scenarios over the years — must vie with Progressive’s Flo and an assemblage built around her; Allstate’s Mayhem; State Farm’s Jake; and a horde of advertising players from Liberty Mutual and Farmers’ Insurance. Can a documentary sustain Geico’s creations against a well-populated field?

“We only see there are only two that are really at the top and that’s the Gecko and the Caveman,”says Burrell. “For us, it isn’t crowded because research says these are the ones that people love the most and there are the ones that people pay attention to.” The Caveman was even briefly at the center of an ABC sitcom that ran for a few weeks in 2007.

One reason the characters have seemed so durable is that Geico has worked with the same ad agency, Interpublic Group’s The Martin Agency, for 30 years. That means a single group has maintained the mascots’ voice and look across decades.

Geico seems to have more to say, says Burrell: “We have such rich stories to continue to tell.”

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