As far as their marketing presence goes, GEICO has done some memorable ads. The GEICO Gecko, the GEICO Cavemen and now Maxwell the GEICO pig have become household names.
As a company, GEICO is regarded as a creative stand-out in the advertising and marketing space — known for running several snappy campaigns at once. Without a doubt, GEICO can be credited with being the first “fun” insurance company.
So why, oh, why did GEICO get this Maxwell the Pig ad just so incredibly wrong?
Maxwell the Pig Ad — Total Brand #FAIL
A few weeks ago, I saw a this GEICO television spot for the first time. In it, Maxwell the GEICO pig and a female companion were stranded in a broken-down car. The woman in the ad apparently sees this as an opportunity to maybe have a make-out session…with the pig. But Maxwell, the pig is too busy checking his GEICO mobile app and then playing Fruit Ninja to “pass the time” with her. He may be a little pig but he has the voice of an “I’m-too-cool-for-school” kind of dude.
While I don’t agree with that One Million Moms group who say that this ad promotes bestiality, I DO think the ad is incredibly tone-deaf and off-brand. This is more like a commercial for GoDaddy than a GEICO ad, which I’ve always associated with good-natured, often ironic humor. The GEICO Caveman was a sophisticated savant in an uncivilized world. Now that’s funny. The GEICO Gecko delivers his glib comedy in a variety of outrageous situations. Now, that’s funny.
GEICO ads have worked traditionally because, in the midst of all of the humor, on a certain level, we could all relate. No one is being excluded from being able to relate to the situations the Cavema finds himself in as he makes his way through a world that just doesn’t get his finer side. While snarky, the GEICO Gecko isn’t putting people down.
However, the GEICO Pig spurning the advances of a human female with some love on her mind just completely fails in terms of being relatable. Both the pig and the female are completely unlikable. Is the female meant to be a potential GEICO customer? Would she really want to make out with that little pig?
The joke doesn’t work and it is completely off-brand. The ad has also succeeded in creating controversy and potentially alienating current and future customers by putting its brand behind a commercial that uses
humiliation and an uncomfortable situation as an attempt at humor. The ad totally falls flat on its face.
Sure, Seth MacFarlane can get away with this in Family Guy — where Brian the dog is regularly in relations with human — and that works. Why? For one, all of the characters are in cartoon form and that gives the show creators some leeway in terms of what they can get away with. Secondly, it is Family Guy after all and we wouldn’t expect anything less. But this is GEICO, not Family Guy.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s the full Maxwell on a Date ad:
Maxwell the GEICO Pig on a Date
Interesting Side Note: Mobile Games Have Entered the Mainstream
The fact that this ad mentions the popular game “Fruit Ninja” is another sign that gaming — especially mobile games — have entered the mainstream. Ever since Alec Baldwin was kicked off an airplane for refusing to shut down his “Words with Friends” game and “Angry Birds” pillows, toothpaste, characters, amusement parks and games have entered the mainstream — mobile gaming has firmly established its presence.
Here are Examples of GEICO Ads That Are More Brand Appropriate — and Funny