Advertising Campaign … Are the Geico Happiness Ads Effective?

Have you seen the recent Geico happiness advertisement series where the theme is Geico creating happiness? Three of these are shown in the image: the Roadrunner and Coyote with Gecko; the witch in a broom factory; and Christopher Columbus discovering America in speedboats. There are more, but we thought three would be enough to analyze the effectiveness of the series. The question for you is … is this advertising campaign effective?

effective advertising
Effective advertising?


The secret of all effective advertising is not the creation of new and tricky words and pictures, but one of putting familiar words and pictures into new relationships.

–      Leo Burnett


Examining these TV commercials, it seems that Leo Burnett’s words ring true. At least on the surface; but they are only necessary, not necessary and sufficient. It has been said that advertising is the price to be paid for being unremarkable.  That certainly seems to be the case in this series.


Let’s evaluate other elements to determine the effectiveness of these advertisements in the Geico marketing strategy:


Advertising campaign … effective advertising

Be relevant to your target market  keep in mind that one message does not fit all. It starts with knowing your target market. Here the target market is not at all clear, are they?


effective advertising methods
Effective advertising methods.

Define your positioning

Your positioning is your frame of reference.  Make comparisons to your competitors if you can. Geico, for sure, knows who its major competitors are, but makes no comparisons in this series.



Effective advertising campaigns

They must grab and hold viewers’ attention with interesting information.  Keep in mind that people don’t watch ads … they watch what interests them. Your ad messages must be interesting to your target communities. These ads are, at best, average at grabbing, but not holding attention. They certainly don’t provide interesting or entertaining information (in fact, they border on annoying, based on the frequency).


Define a unique selling proposition

This proposition must truly discriminate you from your competition. Give your customers reasons to select you. Certainly, none is shown here in this series.


Effective advertising strategies

Advertising strategies must make messages simple … that the reader will quickly understand. Keep in mind that pictures are far more valuable than words. Creating customer curiosity by lacking any real message or point doesn’t count.


Any effective marketing campaign whether it’s a series of Web videos, direct emails, magazine display ads, banner ads, outdoor billboards, television and radio spots, or any combination thereof, will only work if it focuses on a single message.


At the heart of all advertising is the promise you commit to delivering to your clients. No matter how clever or memorable your marketing, if you fail to deliver on that promise, you will fail.


advertising campaign example
Advertising campaign example.

  Advertising campaign example

Learn a lesson from the politicians. The general publics’ opinion of politicians is about on a par with having a prostate exam. Politicians can’t help themselves; they promise the electorate what the electorate wants to hear, and then fail to deliver on promises that can never be kept. Consequently, people become cynical and distrust everything politicians say.


Failure to deliver on your promise to be the cheapest, the best, or the guy with the most features, is like a politician promising no new taxes. Read my lips! Those kinds of promises are a prescription for a marketing disaster.


Taking the conceptual approach requires a certain degree of confidence and an understanding that you are going to have to give something up to get something in return. If you present your identity as the Timex of widgets, inexpensive and ubiquitous, then you are giving up the audience looking for the Rolex of widgets, expensive and exclusive.


Advertising campaign … make your ad a component

Your advertising methods need to relate an integrated marketing campaign. There are a series of similar ads in this campaign … all geared to address the theme of happiness. But with no real message other than awareness of Geico, where is the integration?


Consider the end state values to your customers

Target your end state values to customers and particularly the target customers that are looking for value and message. Where is the beef? The marketing strategy certainly is missing this end state in our opinion.


Effective advertising campaign

This list could go on, but I’ll end with one last powerful principle that is useful in reshaping opinions and getting people to rethink brands or categories — one of the best reasons to invest $5 million in a Super Bowl ad in the first place.

In early 2011, selling an American car was a tough ask. Most people still associated Detroit and American automakers with failure and bailouts.

The principle of “two-sided messaging” was brilliantly used in Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit”(No. 13). We are more likely to engage with a message that fits with what we already believe. If someone feels negatively toward a brand, they’ll be resistant to hearing a direct, positive message. By first acknowledging a few of its flaws, they’ll be more open to changing how they feel and what they believe.

The Chrysler spot tells us that, yes, Detroit has been through some tough times, but it’s also strong, resilient and knows a thing or two about art and culture and luxury. By validating the viewers’ impressions of Detroit and, by reflection, Chrysler, the brand was able to turn “Imported from Detroit” into a “hell yes!” rally cry for the Motor City everyone felt proud to get behind.

Whether or not any of these ads were developed with the conscious use of behavioral science, it’s clear to see that when ads work the way our brains work, they capture our attention and make a lasting impact. Think how much further ahead you can be if you start your ideation with behavioral science in mind.


The bottom line

Remember, it is not what advertising does with the consumer; it is what the consumer does after viewing the advertisement.


It has been said that advertising is the price to be paid for being unremarkable. After looking over these enablers and this Geico advertising series, we believe Geico is paying the price of being unremarkable twice. What do you think?



 What are some of your experiences with advertising as a component of an integrated marketing campaign? Please share one with this community.



Need some help in capturing more customers from your advertising? Creative ideas to help the differentiation with your customers?


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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+Twitter, and LinkedIn.  


Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change.  We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.


More reading on advertising from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library:

 What to Expect from a Creative Advertising Strategy

Creative Secrets from Budweiser Advertising Examples

Prudential Ad Makes Visualization Design Central to Story

Ten Deadly Sins of Advertising Design


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Advertising Campaign … Are the Geico Happiness Ads Effective?

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