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Geico No-Go: Franchise Frustration at NY Comic Con 2014


I was amazed and angry. I know that at the New York Comic Con, there would be soft-core porn, bad Once Upon A Time parodies, panels I couldn’t get into and the like. I’ve no problems with that…well I do with the last, but that’s besides the point…. But I’d never expected what I saw on the floor and am still a bit furious. It was the most offensive thing I’ve ever seen at one of these cons with the singular exception of a woman selling “Boys are stupid, let’s hit them with rocks” tee shirts.

This was even worse than the Death of Archie® or the Book of Job action figure with real running sores! It was the GEICO booth.

Now for the full disclosure: I own stock in Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate that owns this insurance company. But just because of that doesn’t mean I like their commercials. I don’t and never have. So when I saw an old fashioned trailer surrounded by cardboard cutouts of their pitch critters, I was incensed. Don’t get me wrong. I know that cartoons and advertising have been hand-in-glove pop culture items since the beginning. Hell, the Yellow Kid pitched cigars in the 19th century! But branding isn’t what this event is about -- at least for me. It’s about the art form.

Cartoons specifically designed only to sell something else isn’t what I think should be at an event like this comic con. The product that is celebrated at such an event is the artwork or the TV show itself, not the advertising that pays for it. This is not about selling automobiles or insurance for automobiles -- it's about the creative impulse behind the work made, the characters developed.  If it was, then goddammit, they would have let Kellogg’sQuaker Oats and Post Cereals have booths.

Garry Moore Tony the Tiger 1955

Toy companies and the like have been producing comics as promotions for years and years. If you go to YouTube and look at the opening credits for the Huckleberry Hound show, you'll notice that Tony the Tiger and Snap, Crackel and Pop were dancing around with everybody else. Then there was the Linus the Lionhearted show from the mid 1960s, where the Post cereal characters had their own episodes. While that managed to hold on for a while, (it was banned in 1969) activist groups came on it like a ton of bricks. They also destroyed a proposed Chester Cheetah show in 1992.

The question as to whether promotional premiums from fast food places or cereal boxes belong at a comic con is one thing. There didn’t seem to be too many dealers in antique stuff there (although there were people who would appraise your antiques or protect that copy of Superman #3 you have in your safety deposit box), and I don’t think there have been many Adventures of the Hamburgler comic books given away in the past 20 years anyway.

But the things that were supposed to be promoted were the ‘toons, video games, and TV shows, not commercials promoting insurance.The Geico characters are made simply to sell insurance -- there's isn't an innocent element of honest creation in the development of this gecko character or other related Geico concepts; they are just created as a cynical device for the sale of product. Celebrating this with a booth at NYCC is wrong.

Some things are just wrong.


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