Without a doubt the most recognizable brand in the insurance industry is care of GEICO, a vehicle insurer that has courted customers with a wide variety of clever characters and gimmicks. The most popular of them is undoubtedly The Gecko, a computer-animated lizard with an English accent whose congeniality and enthusiasm for GEICO have brought scads of customers to the company. Recently, The Gecko has been at the front of a new social networking push with GEICO, including a press tour during which the elusive character has been granting interviews with various media outlets. I arrived at the historic Sorrento Hotel in Seattle, Washington to conduct my own interview with The Gecko on behalf of Popdose. Though I can’t say I went in with informed expectations for interviewing a fictional marketing mascot, the experience was nonetheless not what I signed up for.
The room, an elegantly appointed suite, was dimly lit. I had been escorted from the lobby to the suite by what can best be described as a nigh-fantastical sufferer of excessive pituitary function. The human hulk, hairless but for a fuzz on his pate, loomed behind me with the gentle menace of an early scene in an Expressionist silent film. We entered the suite where The Gecko sat in a wood-and-leather chair, a blonde-haired man in a tan suit at his right.
“Ah, Mr. Sarko. Good to see you,” the man in the tan suit said, “I see you’ve met Mr. Gecko’s publicist.”
I nodded in time with a leap of doubt in my heartbeat. The towering publicist took his place at The Gecko’s left and I sat in the chair across from the mascot, proceeding with the interview.
Popdose: Mr. Gecko, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. It’s not every day we at Popdose get to chat with a nationally recognized icon such as yourself. That fame in mind, do you get as much attention in foreign nations as you do in the States?
GECKO: GEICO commercials only run in America, so I guess everywhere else, I’m just your average gecko.
P: I understand you’re currently on a journey across America. What is the most interesting thing you’ve seen so far?
G: When I was in New York, I met a man who called himself the Naked Cowboy. Although he wasn’t really naked. He wore a guitar, underpants and a cowboy hat. I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything quite like that. I shot a video with my Gecko Cam to introduce him to my Facebook friends. Sometimes being 6.9 inches tall is a rather unfortunate vantage point.
P: How do you decide where you’ll go next on your journey?
G: There are some places I’ve always wanted to visit, like the Stockyards in Ft. Worth, Texas and well, Vegas. But I also count on my Facebook friends to suggest places for me to go. I never would have known about Magnolia Bakery in New York or Foamhenge in Virginia.
P: A lot of your long-time fans have been perplexed about your accent. You’ve been in America for so long now, have you noticed any shift in the way you speak?
G: When I first started doing commercials, I took a more classical Shakespearean approach to my delivery. But then me mum suggested I just be myself. I think she was right. She usually is.
P: GEICO, your employer, has implemented a variety of marketing concepts over the years. These days, the stage is pretty crowded. In addition to your own TV, Internet and radio spots, the company has its “Adages Taken Literally” commercials and the “That’s Amazing” campaign. Do you enjoy the collaboration with other marketing concepts or do you fear that you are, to coin a phrase, “going the way of the caveman?”
At this point, the man in the tan suit stepped forward.
“The Gecko doesn’t have the authority to speak on behalf of the company’s marketing department. He will not be taking this question,” he said. I was a bit put off by how much he bristled at the question, but I kept myself composed. I can clock a lawyer for what he is by the way he speaks. I decided to let the question go. Moving on, I swallowed a knot of fear and turned the page of my notebook.
P: You’ve spent a lot of time in the United States. You no doubt have absorbed the ubiquitous political content pervading our media. What are your thoughts on the upcoming presidential election? Any opinions on the Republican nomination race or President Obama’s chances of re-election?
The Gecko stammered and his eyes widened. Being unable to sweat or internally regulate his body temperature, he began pouring a small glass of water over his head. The publicist beast lurched forward, twisting my arm behind my back at an angle I never imagined was possible.
“That was not an appropriate question, Mr. Sarko,” he growled, “Perhaps you would consider discussing the country music stars The Gecko can’t stop listening to…”
Being a man of journalistic integrity and apparently little self-preservation instinct, I continued in my original line of questioning, even as the pain in my shoulder entered a new realm of excruciating agony.
P: How about your thoughts on the ongoing global economic crisis? One of GEICO’s main marketing thrusts is the idea of saving people money. As a long-time spokeslizard, does that mean you stand with America’s at-risk middle and working classes? Are we one day going to hear your distinct cockney lilt echoed in an Occupy demonstration?
As my shoulder loosed from its socket with a sickening pop, I began to doubt that the man behind me had sufficient legitimate experience in the field of public relations.
“Talk about the Facebook page!” he snarled, “Tell your readers to Like it! Like the ever-living hell out of it!”
I tasted blood well up from my cheek as I bit into it by instinct. The pain and the visceral panic were taking over. I wouldn’t be conscious much longer.
“I’m sorry. It wasn’t supposed to be this way…” The Gecko muttered shakily. I managed to croak out one last question, though I don’t know if it was my own or something the lawyer in the tan suit whispered into my ear.
P: Lastly and perhaps most importantly, Popdose readers understand that music is the language of the soul. What are the top albums that express your innermost sense of self?
G: Oh goodness, that’s a tough one. Let’s see…basically, anything that you can shake your tail to. Like…Wrinkle Neck Mules (I have a cameo in their music video on YouTube. Just sayin’.
The sweet oblivion of unconsciousness took me and when I awoke, hours later in a gutter somewhere on the south side of Seattle, I counted myself lucky to both be alive and still in possession of my digital audio recorder, secreted away in a hidden pocket on my person. Though I wouldn’t advise any aspiring journalist to cross the PR division of a multinational corporation, those intrepid and foolish enough to pursue the truth at all costs should at least know what this life entails.