A Caveman, a Pig and a Gecko Walk Into a Bar...

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It’s hard to channel surf these days without running into a GEICO commercial from any one of their parallel campaigns — whether it’s the “How happy are folks…?” guitar-picking duo, Maxwell the Pig or everyone’s favorite British gecko.

But behind GEICO’s wall-to-wall advertising is a story of meteoric growth that should encourage clients and agencies alike in uncertain economic times. By sticking to a consistent message (albeit delivered by very different actors), GEICO has gone from a largely government-centered provider to one of the nation’s largest insurers in less than two decades.

A recent article in Advertising Age breaks down this jump to the top ranks. When Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway acquired GEICO in 1996, the company controlled about 3% of the total market. Since then, that market share has tripled — and according to Ad Age DataCenter, in 2012, GEICO was the fifth-most-advertised megabrand with $921 million in media spending.

So it’s true: GEICO is wildly outspending its competitors when it comes to advertising. But in the nearly 20-year run of campaigns, one message has been crystal clear. So clear, in fact, that you can probably finish the next sentence yourself: “Fifteen minutes could save you…”

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