Have you seen the latest “It’s What You Do” commercial from Geico? The beginning looks like something out of a James Bond movie, with a gang of villains chasing a handsome agent through an industrial landscape. Just as the leading man realizes that he’s trapped on the roof of a building, his cell phone rings. “Where are you?” he shouts, clearly expecting some backup. Instead, you hear, “Well, the squirrels are back in the attic.” Confused, the agent says, “Mom?” and the scene cuts abruptly to a sunny living room, where an older woman is flipping through a magazine and complaining that “Dad won’t call the exterminator.” Then comes the voice-over…
“If you’re a mom, you call at the worst time. It’s what you do. If you want to save 15 percent or more on car insurance, you switch to Geico. It’s what you do.”
Yep, you heard that right. Out of ALL the things that moms do, Geico chose to highlight calling at the worst time for a national ad campaign. Calling at the worst time?!? Was that really the best you could do, Geico?
Just wait until your father gets home.
“It’s What You Do” has spawned a memorable assortment of absurdly funny commercials since its launch in 2014. “If You’re a Golf Commentator, You Whisper,” even when a kraken emerges from a water hazard. “If You’re the Band Europe, You Love a Final Countdown,” even if it’s just the timer on the office microwave. “If You’re Salt-n-Pepa, You Tell People to Push It,” whether they’re trying to open a door, practice Lamaze, or mow the lawn. And “If You’re In a Horror Movie, You Make Bad Choices,” like hiding behind the chainsaws in the barn.
If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?
Speaking of bad choices, I can’t help thinking about all the different ways Geico could have gone with “If You’re a Mom.” How about “If you’re a mom, you make your kids eat vegetables.” Or “If you’re a mom, you worry that your kids are cold.” Or even “If you’re a mom, you lick your thumb and use it to rub dirt off your kid’s face.” Besides having obvious comedic potential, these offer the added benefit of being reasonably accurate and not entirely disrespectful.
If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
So where did it all go wrong? I can only conclude that the initial concept meeting for this ad was hijacked by an insider with mommy issues. Imagine: The creative director says, “Let’s brainstorm! When I say ‘mom,’ you say the first thing that comes to your mind. Ready? MOM!” Then various team members call out things like “Bakes cookies!” “Gives hugs!” and “Drives carpools!” until they’re shouted down by the cynical copywriter from the dysfunctional family. “CALLS AT THE WORST TIME!”
Don’t use that tone with me, mister.
I’d like to point out that moms don’t have any kind of monopoly on poorly-timed phone calls. In fact, I’m willing to bet that moms find themselves on the receiving end of inopportune calls more often than not. Take the secret agent in this ad. If he’s anything like my kids, he’s been calling his mom at the most inconvenient times since the day he was born. He’s undoubtedly called out from his crib just as his mom drifted off to sleep. He’s probably called from the school nurse’s office just as his mom stepped into an important meeting. He’s almost certainly called to complain about his sister while his mom and dad were out on a rare date night. He may have even called from a sleepover party to say that he was ready to come home. At 3 a.m.
Don’t make me come over there.
If you have a mom, you’ve done this too. We all have. I once called my mom when a friend’s car broke down on a college road trip, and she had to drive over an hour to rescue us. I called my mom in total postpartum meltdown the night we brought our first baby home, and she immediately threw a few things in a suitcase and headed over. A few years back, I called my mom to complain that I had no time to decorate for Christmas, and she was at my door within hours toting bags of garland and ribbon.
Now THAT’S what moms do.
If you’re a mom, you drop everything, you show up and you make it happen. It’s what you do. And it’s something Geico should keep in mind. Why? Because if you’re a mom, you might need to buy car insurance one day. But even more importantly…
Because I said so.