Kraken! And GEICO!

A recent tv ad for GEICO entertained me enormously; you can watch it here:

A description, from the site:

At a golf tournament, a golfer prepares to make a shot over the water. Just before he goes to swing, a kraken emerges from the water and grabs the golfer and his caddy, swinging them around with its tentacles. While all this is happening, the golf commentators continue quietly narrating the event. When you’re a golf commentator, you whisper — It’s what you do. If you want to save 15 percent or more on car insurance, you switch to GEICO.


Now, some notes: on the Kraken, and on GEICO and the”It’s What You Do” ads.

The Kraken. From Wikipedia:

The Kraken (/ˈkreɪkən/ or /ˈkrɑːkən/ [but /ˈkrækǝn/ in the commercial]) is a legendary sea monster of large proportions that is said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Greenland. The legend may have originated from sightings of giant squid that are estimated to grow to 12–15 m (40–50 ft) in length, including the tentacles. The sheer size and fearsome appearance attributed to the kraken have made it a common ocean-dwelling monster in various fictional works.

… The English word kraken is taken from Norwegian. In Norwegian and Swedish, Kraken is the definite form of krake, a word designating an unhealthy animal or something twisted (cognate with the English crook and crank). In modern German, Krake (plural and declined singular: Kraken) means octopus, but can also refer to the legendary Kraken. In Dutch, the verb Kraken means breaking or the sound of cracking.

From Beth Carswell on the AbeBooks book blog:


Kraken Vs. Kraken! (Then and Now): The image on the left is from an 1802 book called Histoire naturelle generale et particulière des Mollusques by Denys Montfort. The image on the right is one I came across today [sometime in August 2015], from 2004, listed as original children’s book art by Tom Leonard, and called Mysterious Giant Squid.

GEICO and its ads. GEICO is the Government Employees Insurance Company,  the second largest auto insurer in the United States (after State Farm). Its advertising mascot is a Cockney-accented gecko, viewable here, along with information about geckos and about the company.

(As far as I can tell, the company insists on all-caps for its acronymic name and never refers to itself as the GEICO insurance company (or Insurance Company), presumably because that would be redundant; apparently, for them the parts of the acronym are still vivid and salient, 70 years after the company was founded.)

The iSpot review of the commercial above:

Geico [note initial caps only] brings in the Kraken to continue its “It’s What You Do” campaign with this funny 30-second ad. Professional golfing events with media coverage usually have workers employed to keep the noise levels down. They can usually be found holding signs for people to cease talking, and that mobile phones should be tucked away on quiet. This is why golf commentators are usually whispering. [Actually, they now do the commentary from a remote site, but we all recall the whispering as a long-time convention.]

So when absolute chaos ensues when a Kraken appears from a water hazard, golf commentators stay true to what they do. When the mythological creature of massive proportions seizes a golfer and his caddie within its tentacles, they comment quietly on how his club choice may not be enough. Even when the crowd begins to disperse in a non-orderly, chaotic fashion in an attempt to flee the golf course, they’re still whispering. But it’s all done to drive home the idea that switching to Geico insurance is just second nature; it’s what you do.

It’s an arms race between the creative agencies that make commercials for insurance providers. Progressive, Allstate and Geico constantly do battle with each other, with each company having multiple spokespersons to appeal to different demographics. This Geico ad’s continuance on its campaign is in full steam, and does not look to be slowing down anytime soon.

To my mind, the previous top ad was this one (which I contemplated posting on when it came out: talking to the animals and all that):

‘Go Get Help: It’s What You Do’: Being chased through a dry desert environment, an adventurer finds himself suddenly sinking into quicksand. As he is slowly drowning, he makes a plea for help to a nearby cat. But, it chooses to ignore him because it’s what cats do. Save on insurance with GEICO — it’s what you do.

Five more ads from the series, some more effective than others (descriptions from iSpot):

Super Bowl 2015 TV Commercial, ‘Push It: It’s What You Do’ featuring Salt-N-Pepa [singing their song “Push It”]: Whether you’re in an elevator or taking a baby class, be prepared to be ambushed by Salt-N-Pepa who will tell you to push. [It’s what they do.] Besides pushing, we’re all likely to switch to GEICO.

‘Operation: It’s What You Do’: EMT’s and nurses rush a patient on a gurney through the hospital and into trauma unit Number Five for surgery. The patient has multiple foreign objects in his body and the surgeon makes a move to try and remove them. Every time he tries, however, a buzz sound is heard and the patient’s nose lights up red. As it turns out, the patient is the guy from the Operation game. When you’re that guy, you get operated on — It’s what you do. If you want to save 15 percent or more on car insurance, you switch to GEICO.

‘Camels: It’s What You Do’: Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike! “Guess what day it is?” It’s Hump Day all over again. If you’re a camel, you’re probably putting up with people quoting the “Hump Day” GEICO camel all the time — even when it’s not Wednesday. Get as excited about saving 15 percent or more on car insurance as the zoo attendees are about the two camels.

‘Prisoner: It’s What You Do’: In what looks like the medieval times, a group of armored knights led by an imposing leader enter a room lit only by torches. He’s come to check on the progress of his men with their prisoner who is tied to a large table. The two men sternly reply that the prisoner will tell them everything very shortly as they each hold a sharp, pointy weapon. As soon as the leader and his entourage take off, however, a bunch of other men emerge from their hiding spots as the group resumes their pingpong match on the table. As it turns out, the prisoner is acting as their net and keeping score the entire time. If your boss stops by, you act like you’re working — It’s what you do. If you want to save 15 percent or more on car insurance, you switch to GEICO.

Fishermen Tell Tales: It’s What You Do’: Greg tells a small crowd of fellow fishermen a tale of epic proportions. He paints a dramatic picture of the battle he had with a beast as long as his boat for seven hours as he moved through a furious storm in the sea. The climax of this story is reached when Greg yells at the fish, “You will not beat me!” Finally, as he regales his captivated audience, Gary the sidekick walks up with said “beast,” a very small fish, and it turns out Greg may have exaggerated a bit. GEICO reminds us if you’re a fisherman, you tell tales — it’s what you do.

One Response to “Kraken! And GEICO!”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Ann Burlingham on Facebook: Kraken is also the name of a delicious spiced rum.

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