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Split Decision on Geico's 'Scoops'

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NEW YORK What is it with Geico and cavemen? A new round of auto-insurance spots (via The Martin Agency of Richmond, Va.) includes an expose of The Flintstones, of all people. Each commercial takes the form of an investigative TV show called "The real scoop," complete with the urgent, portent-heavy voiceovers endemic to that genre. The Flintstones execution poses the question: How could Wilma, a stay-at-home mother, have afforded a necklace "made of huge rocks" on the salary Fred makes as a working stiff at the Slate Gravel Co.? The show's investigation reveals that the Flintstones had insured their Flintmobile with Geico, "saving the couple untold amounts of money." We learn that revelation of the Flintstones' newfound wealth has alienated them from their neighbors: "Their friendship with the Rubbles would soon become strained." Another spot attributes the sudden wealth of The Beverly Hillbillies not to an accidental discovery of "Texas tea" but to the savings they got from insuring through Geico. The campaign exemplifies savvy use of exaggeration. Slight, furtive exaggeration-i.e., the kind to which advertising is prone-routinely triggers viewers' skepticism. But wild, blatant exaggeration works to disarm consumer resistance. You won't believe the Flintstones became fabulously wealthy by using Geico, but you'll be receptive to the real sales pitch delivered by a closing voiceover: Geico could save you 15 percent or more on your car insurance. There is one downside to the spots: Will adults who fondly recall these characters want to see them as the target of a pitiless investigation, even in jest? I mean, it's a little sad to think of the Flintstones and the Rubbles drifting apart, isn't it?