Tragedy Leads to Comedy for Geico

ATLANTA The idea behind a new campaign for Geico Direct began with a joke, according to creative staffers at The Martin Agency.

Three television and eight radio spots from the Interpublic Group shop in Richmond, Va., play off the premise of a good news/bad news joke shared between copywriter Bob Meagher and art director Cody Spinadel.

“In the joke, which is off-color, the good news had nothing to do with the situation,” said Meagher. “We thought it would be fun to do a series for Geico.”

The good news in each spot remains the same: “Give us 15 minutes and we’ll save you 15 percent,” Meagher said.

The commercials use humor to deliver endless variations on bad news. In one spot, for example, a prison inmate hears his attorney, standing next to him but speaking into a cell phone, respond to some great news. The punch line has nothing to do with the prisoner; the lawyer is happy because he got a lower rate on car insurance from Geico.

In another ad, a television reporter relating the bad news of a horrific volcano adds that he’s found a great deal on car insurance.

The agency has been using humor in its Geico Direct spots for nine years. “The campaign can be extended because you can start anywhere with the bad news,” Meagher said.

Spinadel said some spots were pulled to lighten the overall tone of the campaign, a nod to the current political situation. “In spots like this you have to have tragedy to have comedy,” Spinadel said. “Some situations were more dire, which made the whole misdirect more powerful, but they were dialed back.”

The spots broke last week on network, spot TV and national cable channels. Campaign spending was not disclosed.

The Washington, D.C.-based client insures some 7 million automobiles in the U.S.