The Martin Agency & GEICO: Happier Than...

We want to thank Steve Bassett, SVP/Group Creative Director at The Martin Agency for taking time to discuss the agency's relationship with GEICO.

The Martin Agency & GEICO: Happier Than...

By Jeff Finkle.


AdForum loves bringing agencies and clients together which is why we decided to spotlight some special long-term agency-client relationships. We want to thank Steve Bassett, SVP/Group Creative Director at The Martin Agency for taking time to discuss the agency's relationship with GEICO.

AdForum:  Back in the beginning, when The Martin Agency started working with The Government Employees Insurance Company, what was the biggest challenge in creating a new image through comedy for the brand that we now know as GEICO?


Steve: The biggest challenge?  Establishing brand awareness in a cluttered, low-interest category.  In 1994, GEICO was number eight in the category. Many people didn’t even know how to pronounce the company’s name.  Being a challenger brand, having a huge appetite for growth, and operating with a direct-to-consumer business model, GEICO was well positioned to disrupt the category.  Instead of scare tactics, we used humor.  Instead of an emotional appeal, we appealed to the left side of people’s brains with a unique, rational savings message. 


AdForum: What was the story behind the creation of the now famous 15% tag line?

Steve: Saving money is the number one reason people switch car insurance.  Our 15/15 promise knocked down two common barriers to shopping for car insurance.  One, it takes too long.  Two, it isn’t worth the time.  People did the math and figured it was well worth their time to call GEICO for a rate quote.  More importantly, GEICO lives up to their 15/15 promise. 



AdForum: What would you say is the main thing that your creative team does in the creative process to keep the ads fresh?  Also, how many ideas are tossed out before you come up with the next ad worthy of being in the series?

Steve: How do we keep the ads fresh?  Most of our work doesn’t start out talking about car insurance.  As I said, car insurance is a low-interest, low-involvement category. So. our work for GEICO often starts with a human truth that people can relate to.  Humor helps a lot with brand awareness, brand likeability, and brand shareability.



It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway.  GEICO is a great client.  They know the insurance business and the competitive landscape better than anyone, they have a great business model and a great product, and they BELIEVE in the creative product as much as much as we do.  Does the idea break through?  Is it memorable?  Is it getting the message across?

How many ads do we toss out for every ad produced?   A lot.  A whole lot.



AdForum:  Out of all the ads you’ve worked on, is there one that you responded to the most personally and that you thought represented the campaign the best.  

Steve: Personally, I think the Cavemen, Testimonials, and Unskippable were truly break-through campaigns.  I was surprised and blown away by how popular Hump Day became.