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Geico and the perfect insult

There’s no shortage of praise for Geico’s “Rhetorical Questions” TV campaign, which features wood-chucking woodchucks and Andres Cantor as a chess announcer.

But the best-written spot in this campaign, and my personal favorite, is the one starring drill-sergeant-turned-actor R. Lee Ermey as an insensitive therapist. Watch the ad:

The transcript:

Announcer 1: Could switching to Geico really save you 15% or more on car insurance? Does a former drill sergent make a terrible therapist?

Patient: And that’s why yellow makes me sad, I think.

Therapist: That’s interesting. You know what makes me sad? You do! Maybe we should chug on over to mamby-pamby land where maybe we can find some self confidence for you, you jackwagon! Tissue? Crybaby.

Announcer 2: Geico. Fifteen minutes could save you 15% or more.

What I love most about this ad is the word jackwagon. It sounds just enough like a profanity to land with a punch when delivered by the drill sergeant character. But it’s still not too rough for TV. It also has a rhythm to it—three strong syllables—that makes it hit even harder than would a coarser word like “jackass,” “nimrod,” or “dipshit.”

So what’s a jackwagon? (Or is it jack wagon? Jack-wagon?)

It may be a disused word for a low-sided, horse-drawn harvest wagon, or a very recent slang insult.

But for all intents and purposes, this word was not commonly used in the time immediately before that commercial, and now it is. So we shall award Geico’s ad people full credit for popularizing the word “jackwagon” in late 2010. Geico: They don’t just provide insurance, they also expand our arsenal of insult words.

As to whether to spell it jackwagon, jack-wagon, or jack wagon, there’s no agreement yet. I like it as one word with no hyphen, but let’s wait and see if it makes it into the dictionary.

* * *

Who wrote this ad? The Martin Agency, under SVP/Creative Director Steve Bassett.

Who signed off on it? Ted Ward, Geico Vice President of Marketing, and Bill Brower, Geico Director of Advertising.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Copywriting

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