The latest commercial from Progressive Insurance features Carnie Wilson of the '90s pop standouts Wilson Phillips, which once spent ten weeks at no. 2 on the Billboard 200 because MC Hammer simply refused to give up the no. 1 spot. Perhaps that sad lack of a no. 1 has resulted in the group being somewhat less recognizable to millennials than the emcee. Your correspondent and his wife argued about the wisdom of the guest spot while watching the commercial. It went something like this:
YC: I'm not sure people will recognize someone from Wilson Phillips.
YCW: I know this song ("Hold On" plays as the waiting music as Carnie attempts to file a claim).
YC: Right but no one is going to realize who Carnie Wilson is.
YC: The woman in the commercial.
YCW: She's the one who sings the song?
That said, I enjoyed the commercial, and most insurance companies understand that they can't get the most lucrative of sponsors because...the Rolling Stones don't need to do commercials. One company has spent the last decade atop the wacky insurance commercial game is, of course, Geico. We went back and found all of their oddball entries that feature musical guests (the aforementioned Hammer went with Nationwide).
Real Service, Real Savings
One of Geico's advertising campaigns brought in far more celebrities than any other was its "Real Service, Real Savings," which featured actual Geico customers discussing their pleasant experiences with the company...followed by celebrities giving dramatic reenactments of the same words. Three music stars swung by for the series: The Pips (although not frontwoman Gladys Knight) swung to give a soulful replication, Peter Frampton stood in the background, using his signature talk-box effect to play the testimony on his guitar, but the best had to be Little Richard's appearance. Anyone who's seen Richard love knows that he seemingly loses sanity when he's pounding on the piano...and this commercial is especially hilarious because he wails and squawks without the instrument, turning it into a more comical routine.
"I've Got Good News"
Many will remember the Geico campaign that opened, seemingly as a commercial for something other than insurance. One such TV spot opened with a rock band playing in the garage, before the frontman finally cuts the sound and explains to the guitarist that things just aren't working out. Suddenly an acoustic flourish comes from off-camera, and we move to see Stephen "Esteban" Paul sitting in the corner. The guitarist has made most of his money by hawking instructional videos and signature guitars on shopping networks such as QVC, wearing sunglasses and a bolero every time, so we're expecting him to explain how the fired guitarist can turn his fate around. Instead, Esteban's good news is that he saved a whole bunch of money on his car insurance by switching to Geico. The fact that we unwittingly had that last line memorized is a sign of good advertising.
Get Geico, Get Happy
This was perhaps the most musical of all the Geico campaigns, as every episode of the "Get Geico, Get Happy" commercials featured a pair of bluegrass musicians picking while repeating the line "how happy does...more happy than..." catchphrase. This episode's plot also involved '70s-'80s rocker Eddie Money, who found one of his most lasting hits in 1978 with "Two Tickets To Paradise." That song is turned into a predictable joke for this commercial as the guitarist operates a travel agency, using the opportunity to whip out his hit song whenever possible. The family in the ad reminds him that they need four tickets, not two, and that the trip will be the following month, unable to comply with "pack your bags, we'll leave tonight."
Did You Know?
One of the more recent successful Geico campaigns has involved citizens declaring that "everyone knows" that Geico is a great deal, which encourages their conversational partner to give them a more obscure fact. This particular spot, like the aforementioned Money ad, features a punchline that can be seen from a mile away. One of the young men looking at TVs at an electronics store asks his pal if he knew that "playing cards with Kenny Rogers gets old pretty fast." Rogers has had 17 no. 1 singles on the US Country Charts, but none have become as embedded in the genre's culture as "The Gambler," which essentially poker into a metaphor for life. Rogers appears at a poker table, singing the song incessantly, to the chagrin of his playing partners.
"When You're ______, You ___________"
The most recent Geico commercial to feature a musical guest star, and the most annoying to the aforementioned wife of your correspondent, features Salt-N-Pepa as part of the brand's "When You're _____" campaign. More specifically, "when you're Salt-N-Pepa, you push it. It's just what you do." The group is seen in a series of situations where telling folks to "push it, push it real good" makes sense, such as a football player driving a sled down the field, a couple at a Lamaze class and-your correspondent's favorite-simply instructing a man that he needs to push the door open...not pull it. As a side note, one of our favorite commercials thus far this year is the Dora The Explorer-themed chapter of this campaign.