The Government Employees Insurance Company, usually known by the acronym GEICO, is an American auto insurance company. GEICO is a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway and, as of 2006, provided coverage for more than 10 million motor cars, trucks and other motor vehicles owned by more than 7 million policy holders. GEICO writes private passenger automobile insurance in the District of Columbia and in all U.S. states except Massachusetts.
GEICO was founded by Leo Goodwin and his wife Lillian Goodwin in 1936 to market auto insurance directly to federal government employees and their families. Goodwin was inducted into the Insurance Hall of Fame due to the success of the company. GEICO business model was based on the assumption that such persons would constitute a more financially stable and less risky pool of potential insureds than the general public. After real-time access to computerized driving records became available in the 1970s throughout the United States, GEICO began to insure the general public in addition to its target demographics.
GEICO generally deals directly with consumers via the telephone and the Internet, freeing up capital that would otherwise be spent on employing insurance agents in the field and making the company the nation's largest direct writer of private auto insurance. GEICO does, however, market their products through a small number of field agents, most of whom are based near military bases. These agents are known as GFRs (GEICO Field Representatives).
GEICO's advertising strategy incorporates a saturation-level amount of print (primarily mail circulars) and television parody advertisements, as well as radio advertisements. A common tagline used by GEICO is "fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance".
The company's ads sometimes focus on its amphibian mascot, the GEICO talking gecko, created by The Martin Agency and most recently a CGI creature generated by Framestore CFC. The gecko first appeared in 1999 during the Screen Actors Guild strike that prevented the use of live actors. In the original commercial, where the gecko pleads for people to stop calling him in error, mistaking gecko for geico, he was voiced by Kelsey Grammer. In the subsequent commercials, the gecko speaks with an upper-class British accent because it would be unexpected, according to Martin Agency's Steve Bassett. In current commercials the gecko's accent is more working-class (a typical East London accent), perhaps in an effort to further "humanize" him. "As (computer animation) got better and as we got to know the character better, we did a few things," says Steve Bassett, creative director at The Martin Agency. "We wanted to make him a little more guy-next-door. And he looks a lot more real than he's looked before."
Another common theme is misdirection, in which the commercial appears to be about an unrelated product (or, in fact, may not even be a commercial) and suddenly changes to become a plug for GEICO. The commercials use a variety of fictional characters such as Speed Racer and professional wrestlers as well as real people such as Tony Little spoofing themselves. Other commercials relate to a hair loss doctor who has saved by switching to GEICO, a nature show about a fish, and a soap opera of a couple who is breaking up.
An additional commercial theme is the promotion of fictional products. In 2006 parody ads featured such products as long distance phone service, tomato soda, fast-food, and a reality TV show - in all cases, the parody portion of the ad ends with "but it won't save you any money on car insurance." After the GEICO slogan is heard, the commercials end with "Why haven't you called GEICO?" This use of fictional products in commercials is reminiscent of the Energizer Bunny campaign for batteries from the late '80s.
The parody pitch crossed over to the Caveman campaign in a recent 10 second spot that appears to be a talking heads news interview, but features the popular caveman.
There are also GEICO ads that feature stories from GEICO customers about situations in which Geico assisted them, but narrated by celebrities such as Esteban, Charo, Charlton Heston, Burt Bacharach, Little Richard, Don LaFontaine, Peter Graves, and Verne Troyer. D.C. Douglas provides the voiceover.
In 2005, GEICO began an advertising campaign featuring cavemen in a modern setting. In these commercials a GEICO spokesman explains that using geico.com is "so easy a caveman could do it". This slogan offends cavemen who are shown to still exist in modern society. In 2006, a new commercial featuring the cavemen premiered. A caveman is on a moving sidewalk at an airport when he spots a billboard for Geico featuring a picture of a caveman along with the insulting phrase; the passing caveman shows his disgust. A college campaign shows the offending ad with a sticker superimposed on top of it; the sticker has a photograph of the caveman on it and says "Cavemen are people too." Jeff Daniel Phillips and Ben Weber played the two earliest cavemen and continuously reprise their roles.
Over the years, GEICO has introduced several other products to its lineup, in addition to car insurance. GEICO is most widely known for its car insurance line of products, but also offers motorcycle and ATV insurance, home insurance, umbrella insurance, and boat insurance. As of July 2006, GEICO has accumulated USD 21.2 billion in assets and has 12 major domestic offices including ones in Buffalo, San Diego, Tucson, Dallas, Lakeland, Virginia Beach, Fredricksburg, and Woodbury. GEICO/Berkshire Hathaway, which is headed by renowned investor Warren Buffett has four affiliate companies, GEICO, GEICO General, GEICO Indemnity and GEICO Casualty. According to Fortune Magazine, Berkshire Hathaway's property-casualty insurance has been "among the most admired in the country" since 2004.
GEICO's major competitors include State Farm, Allstate, Progressive, Nationwide and USAA. Progressive is particularly countered in their commercials, with many GEICO commercials countering Progressive's claims of being able to quote their rates and those of several of their competitors' rates by stating that GEICO quotes are only available at GEICO.com.