Behind every successful gecko is a sharp creative team, and the Geico Gecko is no exception. The green ad critter’s first book, released this week by Workman Publishing, was created by The Martin Agency duo of Anne Marie Hite (words) and Adam Stockton (sketches). Today, hours before a Chelsea Clinton interview with the Gecko airs on Rock Center with Brian Williams, Hite, a creative director, and Stockton, an art director, discussed the making of “You’re Only Human,” a pint-sized collection of cheeky thoughts and musings from the 6.9-inch tall brand ambassador.
You had a lot of freedom with this book, but I hear there were boundaries as well.
Hite: He’s Geico’s brand icon, so you have to be aware of that. But it was a really great opportunity to actually push his voice. And people can get to know who he is better because usually we’re limited to a 30-second TV spot and we have a lot of copy points we have to make. So, this was a chance for him just to talk without having to sell car insurance. The limits were no bathrooms, no sex and no—what was the third one, Adam?
Stockton: Well, I know we started talking about food too much.
Hite: We did talk about food but there were three things we weren’t supposed to mention. It was no bathroom ... Oh, no butts.
How did you come up with topics like fedoras, goldfish and quinoa?
Stockton: [Fedora] is an example where I was talking to one of our other writers out in Chicago. We were out on this epic six-week shoot for a Walmart commercial and we were talking about somebody wearing a fedora that we knew. Like, 'Oh, wow, I didn’t realize you were that kind of person.’ Like, ‘That was your lifestyle choice there.’
Hite: And it was so relevant to our agency because we went through a phase where everyone started wearing fedoras [laughs].
You have a favorite line or sketch?
Stockton: My favorite one was about Facebook and the hawk. Like, you have zero friends in common. Denied.
Hite: I really like the words you should never use page. A dictionary page maybe because I’m a writer, but it just makes me laugh.
Did each of you work on your own?
Hite: Uh-hum. I mean, Adam and I worked together a lot [though] because we were trying to pull the whole thing together. We were in this room together that was kind of like [A] Beautiful Mind with hundreds of pages covering the walls, with Post-It notes everywhere.
At the book party this week you told me that Jon Stewart’s “America (The Book)" was a source of inspiration.
Stockton: It’s really just an exercise in, how did they get away with all that intellectual property? Because every page has some sort of reference to pop culture, bashing people and making fun of companies. So, we were trying to be inspired to see how much we can draw from pop culture. But I guess it is different since Geico is a corporation, as opposed to the comedic license of Jon Stewart. But that whole book, the randomness of it and just the little touch points on life were just fantastically inspirational.
Hite: And it’s kind of got a little bit of edge to it, which is nice to kind of bring a little of that edge to the Gecko.
Any children’s books that you emulated?
Stockton: The style of illustration that we were going for was kind of that Shel Silverstein-y illustration, where there’s a lot of copy but there’s just like a simple line drawing next to it, which is amazing. But since we knew that this was going to have tons of copy, it wasn’t going to be like an illustrated children’s book. It would be nice if it had just a splash of a drawing. But then the whole thing ended up ended up having an illustration on every page.
Technically, how did you do the illustrating?
Stockton: There’s a terrible tool that nobody uses in InDesign and it’s a pencil tool. It’s not the glorious pen tool—there are no paintbrushes—but there’s a pencil tool that I don’t think I’ve ever used before in my life. But I have a tablet that I use with my computer and there was so much copy and so many pages that I was just hastily drawing these line drawings in the copy document. So, everything is kind of together.
What are your favorite reactions so far?
Hite: That Warren Buffett [head of Berkshire Hathaway, parent company of Geico] had said that the Gecko had hit it out of the park.
Stockton: My favorite reaction was having my mother call me from Sarasota, Fla. She went to Books-A-Million and bought every copy they had.
How many was that?
In a marketing era defined by change, how has the Gecko lasted 14 years?
Stockton: Not only because they pumped so much money into media–through Horizon Media—and everybody knows him, but it’s the charm. He’s very likeable. And one way that Geico became human as a company ... was ironically through a British lizard.
You planning an audio version?
Hite: We actually are. On Facebook, he’s going to do weekly readings of the book. We just put together a series of videos. So it’s his voice over kind of Ken Burns-like videos of the book.
If you got a celebrity to read the book, who would your choice be?
Hite: I feel like he should read it because it’s his voice and so much of it is in how he delivers everything. I don’t know if we’d ever get anybody other than him to read it.
Stockton: You could do Samuel Jackson [laughs].