INTERVIEW: Martin Agency team dissects The GEICO Gecko

Gecko
(l-r: Ryan Raab, Martin, Roger Hailes)

When I was first drawn to advertising part of the lure was the idea of creating an iconic spokesperson for a brand. I had always admired Tony the Tiger, Mr. Whipple, Clara “Where’s the beef?” Peller and even Cora from Maxwell House. I so desired to create someone who would have staying power and become synonymous with a brand.

When I finally did break into advertising, I was blessed to be surrounded by The Budweiser Frogs, Ants, The “I Love You, Man” dude and The Wassup Guys at DDB, Chicago. When I freelanced at Leo Burnett, I got to touch Allstate’s Mayhem played by talented actor, Dean Winters.

The spokesperson or icon has now kind of gone the way of the dinosaur, experiencing a marketing asteroid. Instead of the Pillsbury Doughboy, we have Influencers. We have Content Creators. However, one agency has been able to keep a certain icon going. That would be The Martin Agency’s insanely popular, GEICO Gecko.

A bit of history about our little reptilian friend. The Gecko first appeared in 1999 during the Screen Actors Guild strike that prevented the use of live actors. The original commercial features the Gecko pleading for people to stop calling him in error as he is a gecko not to be confused with GEICO.

Among those who have voiced our little green friend are Thom Bromhead, Dave Kelly, and Andrew Randall (per Behind the Voice Actors). 

Currently voiced by Jake Wood, The Gecko speaks with an English (Cockney) accent. Let’s take a look at some of his best moments, while he touts, “Fifteen minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” Watch below:

And here is the latest:


REELated: Geico Gecko gets gamified in new Twitch campaign


Reel 360 News had the opportunity to sit with two talented creatives from The Martin Agency to talk about The Gecko, Senior Copywriter Roger Hailes and Creative Director/Copywriter, Ryan Raab.

Congrats on another Gecko spot. What made you decide to go video game with him?  

This is not The Gecko’s first video game appearance. The little guy has also appeared in Temple Run, Tetris, Rocket League, and Oregon Trail to name a few. We just love the contrast between this proper little English lizard and the wild worlds of gaming. 

We try to be very faithful to the game we are showing up in because some gamers have spent hundreds of hours in these worlds, so they notice every detail. 

We were pleasantly surprised with the amount of speculation, debate and interest surrounding both this and the Portal spot. We knew both games had devout followings, but we had no idea HOW devout until YouTubers started breaking down the spots frame by frame. We’re so impressed by the community’s enthusiasm for the games and the ads themselves.

It resulted in one of the most unique-looking Gecko spots ever!

Take us through the process of creating scenarios for a 20-year-old character.

It all starts with us asking, “What would The Gecko do?” We know his character so well by now that we even find ourselves dreaming as The Gecko sometimes!

But really, the process is like any other. We list out funny scenarios, cross out the ones the Gecko has already done (which is a lot), and then ask ourselves, “How would the Gecko handle this?” 

Using Portal as an example, we knew that pitting the famously kind Gecko against the famously unkind GLaDOS would naturally create a fun conflict.” 

Do you tie the theme of what GEICO is pushing into the Gecko’s scenario?

We do. What’s important to GEICO is important to The Gecko, so we always try to put him in scenarios where he can naturally talk about his favorite topic – GEICO insurance – without it coming out of left field. Once the scenario is right, we just let the Gecko be the Gecko.

We get a real kick out of the Cuphead spot. It’s so vibrant and fun but still remains on-brand for GEICO.

Thank you! We worked closely with the Cuphead team to make sure our Cuphead-ified Gecko’s look and movements were authentic to the game and to the 1930’s era animation that inspired it.  They’re incredibly knowledgeable about vintage animation and vetted everything closely. 

With this latest one, we worked with Studio MDHR to ensure the Gecko’s look was consistent with the meticulously hand-drawn “rubber hose” style of Cuphead.

What was the biggest challenge?

There was a fun challenge — building a spot around a non-speaking character. Since Cuphead does not talk in the game, we needed to write around that a bit. There was a healthy debate regarding whether the Gecko should speak or if we should use period-appropriate title cards, but in the end, his charm won out. 

Now that The Gecko has popped up in Cuphead, who knows where he might pop up next? With his popularity not even remotely close to waning, we think we will have another 20 years or so of answers.

Shriekfest

Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at colin@reel360.com or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1

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