Martin Agency's crafty storytelling makes Geico 'Unskippable' again

"Fast Forward" follows up last year's award-winning campaign

The Martin Agency has once again figured out a clever way to make pre-roll ads, one of the most hated forms of advertising, interesting. Last year, the agency’s award-winning "Unskippable" Geico campaign kept viewers from hitting the skip button with pre-roll ads that appeared to jump immediately to the end, but kept going.. Now the agency hopes to grab attention with unskippable ads that fast-forward to the end, but make you want to see more.

Four 15-second ads launching today open on ordinary scenes of people talking about the insurance company that last just five seconds before they are interrupted by a refreshing message: Geico is fast-forwarding to the end of the ad "so you can get to your video faster." The ads then cut to the final 5-seconds of the storylines, all bizarre enough that viewers will, hopefully, want to click on the ads to see what they missed.

One starts with two men on a hike, then ends with them caught in the talons of a giant eagle while one plays the saxophone. Another opens on two men sawing a log in the woods, but fast-forwards to one of them in an emotional embrace with a bear The third starts with two men fishing and ends with them mounted on plaques above a fireplace. And the fourth starts with two women and a bald man on an elevator; by the end, everyone’s bald.

If effective, viewers will not only have enjoyed the full 15-second ads they had to sit through, but will be so curious they will leave the videos they were intending to watch to view the full stories told in the extended 60- and 90-second clips.

Like the "Unskippable" campaign, the concept for the "Fast Forward" series was inspired by the unique characteristics of the ad buy. In this case, it was 15-second ads that couldn’t be skipped. "Our challenge was how do we once again take advantage of pre-roll ads and hopefully reinvent them," said Wade Alger, group creative director. "How do we take what we had to play with and hopefully entertain people and drive them beyond the 15 seconds."

The "Unskippable" ads gave the brand message in the first 5 seconds and told viewers they didn’t have to skip them because they were already over. The ads then comically continued the action around the characters, as they remained frozen in that final end frame. The most celebrated commercial, "Family," had a dog jump up on a dinner table and noisily slobber up spaghetti as the family members awkwardly watched in suspension. The ad won a 2015 Cannes Lions Grand Prix in Film, among other honors

"Last year, with ‘Unskippable," the opportunity was, how do we crack those first 5 seconds in an interesting way. This year, with 15-second pre-roll, our thought was, you just want to get your video, so how do you play with that and turn that on its head a little bit," explained Neel Williams, creative director and copywriter on the campaign. "Hopefully after the consumer encounters them, they come out 15 seconds later thinking, ‘I not only like Geico, but I actually want to watch more of that.’ "

The key was creating curiosity. "For the first part we wanted them to feel like a Geico ad, nothing too crazy, because we wanted to give ourselves enough room so that when you come back after the interrupting title card, you want it to feel jarring," added Williams. "We’re starting them off in a very stock commercial, a comfortable world, so that we can go somewhere interesting in the end."

Connecting the dots in the extended cuts presented an interesting conceptual challenge for the team. "Unskippable" was about cueing up the message in the first five seconds, figuring out "when does the comedy run out and what’s the best timing to end it," said Alger. "This year, we had a beginning and a hard end and it was about finding those magical moments in between."

The expectations for the follow up to "Unskippable" are high. The "Unskippable" campaign not only won industry accolades—it was the Gunn Report’s second most awarded digital campaign last year—but it was also effective. While the agency’s research showed 96% of pre-roll ads are skipped after 5 seconds, the average viewing time for the "Unskippable" ads was more than 30 seconds, and "Family" was one of the Geico’s most highly shared ads of all time.

"We went into it thinking the best result we can have is we can tie and that alleviates some of the pressure," said Alger. "Hopefully people will see this work and respond to it in the same way and find it just as inventive."

Campaign credits

Client: Geico
Agency: The Martin Agency
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Alexander
Group Creative Director: Steve Bassett
Group Creative Director: Wade Alger
Creative Director: Neel Williams
Associate Creative Director: Mauricio Mazzariol
Executive Producer: Brett Alexander
Broadcast Producer: Liza Miller
Junior Broadcast Producer: Coleman Sweeney
Group Account Director: Brad Higdon
Account Executive: Allison Hensley
Account Coordinator: Allie Waller
Business Affairs Supervisor: Suzanne Wieringo
Financial Account Supervisor: Monica Cox
Senior Production Business Manager: Amy Trenz
Project Manager: Karen McEwen
Production Company: FURLINED
Director: Nick Ball
President: Diane McArter
Senior Executive Producer: David Thorne
Executive Producer: David Richards
Producer: Jason Gilbert
 ditorial Company: Cut + Run
Executive Producer: Carr Schilling
Producer: Annabelle Dunbar-Whittaker
Editor: ank Effron
Assistant Editor: Brian Meagher
Telecine: MPC
Colorist: Ricky Gausis
Animation/VFX: MPC
Executive Producer: Lexi Stern
Senior Producer: Juliet Tierney
Production Coordinator: Valentina Cokonis
Line Producer: Deepanjali Singh
VFX Supervisor: Gizmo Rivera
VFX Supervisor/Nuke Lead: Jim Spratling
Comp/Prep Lead: Avinash Bhandary
Roto Lead: Sivakumar R
Music: Black Iris
Executive Producer: Jon Spencer
Senior Producer: Amanda Patterson
Executive Creative Director: Justin Bailey
Creative Director: Rich Stine
Composer: Justin Bailey
Audio Post Company: Rainmaker Studios
Engineer/Mixer: Jeff McManus, Mike O’Connor

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