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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

How would you like it if all the money you could have saved on your car insurance was a bundle of cash that constantly watched you with an ever-so-slight smile, your own personal green bundle of buyer's regret?

In the typical far-fetched style of Geico's advertising - a caveman ordering gourmet food at a restaurant, a talking gecko with a Cockney accent - this is exactly the scenario explored in their newest ad campaign, recently launched in December. And that very bundle of money, named Kash, is the latest and greenest mascot to join the likes of the gecko, the caveman and the various other faces of Geico ads that have amused and entertained us for years.

Yet unlike the concept of the beloved Geico gecko, which is based on a somewhat clever wordplay, the concept of Kash does not even make an attempt at wit. Kash is just a wad of, well, cash, with two googly eyes that stare mutely at potential Geico customers like the Ghost of Christmas Past, an eerie reminder of the savings that could have been if they had only switched to Geico.

In one of the released commercials featuring Geico's new star, a woman giggles inanely at Kash while she's on a date with someone else, flirting more with the silent bundle than her actual date. When the waiter tells her that Kash is the money she would have saved with Geico, the woman replies, "I know," with an expression of regret that is just as vacuous as her giggle. Then a shot of Kash staring at the camera is accompanied by a remake of Rockwell's 1984 hit "Somebody's Watching Me," a song whose lyrics describe the fear of being watched by entities such as the neighbors, the mailman and even the IRS - in short, consumer paranoia at its finest.

The idea behind the commercial is the Geico premise in its most uncomplicated form: Kash, literally the $500 that Geico allegedly saves its customers, "watches" all the suckers who haven't been savvy enough to jump on the Geico bandwagon.

So what's the problem with launching an ad campaign that is so elementary it practically insults one's intelligence?

Well, it is certainly not anything we would have seen coming - especially since it poses such a stark contrast to the earlier Geico caveman concept, an ad campaign so wildly successful it even snagged its own ABC spin-off "Cavemen" in 2007. Those ads featured cavemen who were well-spoken, social and intelligent beings, participating in enough tennis and therapy to rival any self-respecting WASP.

When confronted by the new Geico slogan, "Geico: So easy a caveman could do it," they were insulted and outraged because they were actually more moneyed and cultured than most modern-day people. The concept was absurd enough to be hilarious.

Yet in this new Geico commercial, the woman flirting with Kash is neither bizarrely intellectual nor proud of her circumstances; rather, she comes off as inconsiderate, irresponsible and, frankly, stupid. She is aware that she is potentially losing money by not switching to Geico, but all she can do about it is flirt with the wad of cash like some air-headed gold digger trying to strike it big. Instead of making cavemen seem smarter than they should be, this new ad bafflingly makes people seem more stupid than they should be.

Is choosing Geico so easy that a human can't even manage to do it?

It may be true that we Americans do not always use our higher brain functions, and that we have not always been smart about money - mistakes that we are now paying for in full.

Yet it is also grossly unfair to assume that we have completely lost our taste for appreciating a bit of ingenuity in the advertisements that are thrown at us daily.

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We are not mindless drones with dollar signs rattling around in our otherwise empty skulls. The human brain just happens to be the most sophisticated one on the planet, which certainly affords us the ability to value even the least bit of sophistication in return.

Hey, Geico: Stop being lazy - and for God's sake, come up with something that shows at least one iota of thought behind it before expecting us to trust you with our money.

Sandy Nader is a student at Stanford University.

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