Power Players 2009

Geico's Ted Ward Is Ad Age's No. 26 Power Player

Gecko, Cavemen and Googly-Eyed Stack of Money Give Life to Bland Category

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THE POWER: By creating a stable of iconic pitchmen, Geico has singlehandedly shattered the notion that insurance and, more importantly, selling insurance has to be boring. Under Mr. Ward's leadership, Geico has masterfully managed a long-term multitiered campaign and remained one of the most visible brand advertisers. Whether it's the Australian-accented gecko talking about trust, cavemen symbolizing how simple getting insurance can be or the googly-eyed stack of money showing consumers how much money they can save, Geico has changed the insurance industry's approach to marketing -- note Progressive Insurance's bubbly sales woman and State Farm Insurance teaming with comedian Steve Harvey for a series of humorous animated digital shorts.

THE NUMBERS: Geico insures about 10% of the vehicles in the U.S. and almost 9.5 million homes. The brand, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, spent $618 million on measured marketing in 2008. First-half spending was up 2.8% to $273 million.

THE KEY LIEUTENANTS: Bill Brower, Geico's director of advertising, is responsible for managing the relationship with the company's media group, Horizon. Keith Slonski is the director of online marketing, and runs the internal group behind all of Geico's digital work, including its search efforts, its website, and its banner advertising. And Amy Furman, Geico's director of database marketing, drives all of the data-driven programs, working with its CRM shop Merkle.

THE CHALLENGE: The prospecting market in the insurance industry is very small, so companies find themselves fighting to steal one another's customers. But with the current economic situation being what it is and consumer trust in industries like financial services and insurance not at all-time highs, consumers are going to be less inclined to switch insurers, even if the rates are lower.

THE AGENCIES: Geico has worked with independent media shop Horizon for the past 17 years, and database management firm Merkle, another independent, for eight years. But Mr. Ward has worked directly with Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, its creative agency of record, for the past 16 years, creating some of the more memorable TV spots in recent memory.

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