As Halloween approaches, I look forward to seeing my favorite horror movie—a thirty second long GEICO advertisement.
You may have seen it. Four characters flee, trying to escape an unseen pursuer. They veto taking the running car and instead opt to hide behind the wall of chainsaws. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I’ll give you a hint—it might elicit a chuckle or two.
Insurance companies are built on the vexations of cracked windshields and flat tires and run with the frustrations of raised rates to the soundtrack of idle hours spent on the phone listening to hold music.
So why does GEICO’s YouTube channel have almost two million subscribers? I would like to venture the idea that it’s because a good proportion of their videos are commercials, and insurance commercials understand the importance of humor, GEICO perhaps more than anyone.
What comes to mind when you think of GEICO? Is it green and lizard-esque? The first GEICO Gecko commercial aired in 1999, and since then the Gecko (His name’s Martin, but who really calls him that?) has become a GEICO mascot, continuing to star in commercials today.
Since becoming a leader in the early 2000s funny commercial revolution, GEICO continues to find new ways to make audiences pay attention to their commercials for the thirty seconds they have something to say—and remember the punch lines.
Another early commercial, “So easy, a caveman can do it” still brings to mind the cavemen’s agony of the insult. Ever heard the joyful intonation with which someone says Hump Day? It’s likely them impersonating “Happier than a camel on Wednesday.” In fact, this commercial became so embedded in pop culture that they…made another commercial about it. You can check this out as part of the “It’s what you do” campaign, featuring commercials like the aforementioned GEICO horror movie which gags on the ignorance of characters in horror movies.
Beyond this, GEICO interviewed new homeowners who talked about small yet common annoyances in their living spaces, ranging from proximity to the airport to the difficulties of an open floor plan. What makes these commercials memorable is their twist: the airport security is in the homeowners’ front lawn and a missing wall reveals an entire audience looking in on the couple like they’re in a sit-com.
I could go on, as GEICO has a long tradition of haphazardly throwing out different campaigns. What initially seems like a recipe for disaster has in actuality been anything but. The constant fresh takes and different perspectives make viewers get up for a bathroom break after the GEICO commercial has played time and time again.
Progressive’s legendary character Flo has appeared in their insurance commercials since 2008 and expanded to “Flo and the squad,” as their website puts it, in more recent years. These commercials bring all the enthusiasm for insurance that consumers often lack.
However, a new Progressive character has been emerging in his own right. Known as Dr. Rick, you can actually obtain a copy of this fictional doctor’s book on the Progressive website (if you’re willing to pay for shipping). It’s title, Dr. Rick Will See You Now: A Guide to Un-Becoming Your Parents, sums up the comedy of the commercials its based on. Dr. Rick helps struggling new homeowners discover that they have too many throw pillows, you don’t need to leave a voicemail, and you no longer need a printed ticket at the airport. These are things nearly all audiences can recognize their parents as doing or laugh at the discovery that it’s something they do.
Progressive’s newest addition is a nod to sports fans as we kick off football season. Ever wish you could watch a replay to win that debate over who was supposed to bring the life jackets or how loud your dad screamed at seeing that spider? Well, you can’t exactly do that, but Progressive can.
While Flo finds comedy in a passion for insurance the audience can’t even imagine, Dr. Rick creates all too relatable scenes having us think again before we buy that twentieth throw pillow, and let’s not forget how they have us wanting to watch their Replay commercials on, well, replay.
Liberty Mutual’s mascots LiMu Emu & Doug’s comedy is sporadic at best. However, one commercial depicting a “struggling actor” stands out from the rest. Humans have a tendency to laugh at watching people get tongue-tied, and the “actor” stumbling over the words to his two lines is no exception.
After watching this commercial a few times, you’ll find yourself slipping “Liberty Biberty” into everyday conversation.
Jake from State Farm has become a feature of State Farm’s commercials, starring alongside Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Paul Rudd, and “Drake from State Farm”—in one commercial alone.
Paying $6.5 million just for a 30-second slot in the Super Bowl commercials, State Farm made the most out of their money. Between the all-star cast and Paul Rudd’s failed attempt at throwing a football, this commercial was sure to be remembered by the 100 million people seated on their couches for game night.
State Farm proves why the commercials are better than the football game. Just kidding. Sort of.
While very few of us (with the exception of Flo) wake up wanting to know more about insurance, their commercials are now embedded in pop culture. A combination of recognizable mascots, celebrity cameos, catchy lines, and “that’s-so-true” moments leave us thinking about insurance more than we ever thought we wanted to.