Gio Compario doesn't sing any opera in GoCompare's debut ad by Droga5

Infamous mascot re-enacts car accident that leads to insurance claim in spot.

Longtime mascot Gio Compario has a new role in the brand’s first campaign by Droga5 London.

In a TV ad called "Tree", debuting on Sunday (25 August), the opera singer does not belt out his usual GoCompare jingle but instead gets behind the wheel to re-enact an accident that led to a real car-insurance claim. Wynne Evans, the Welsh tenor who portrays Gio, also appears as himself to narrate the events. 

Along with the film, Droga5 has created a new visual identity and 10-second idents for GoCompare's sponsorship of Dave's weekend programming. Out-of-home activity featuring black-and-white photos of Gio against a colourful background will run on 14,000 sites across the UK, including on nozzles at petrol stations. 

The work promotes GoCompare’s new offer that enables qualifying customers to receive free excess cover worth up to £250 when they buy or switch insurance through the comparison website. A second TV spot will air following "Tree".

It was created by Ashley Hamilton and Sara Sutherland, and directed by Jeff Low through Biscuit Filmworks. Hearts & Science handled media planning and buying. 

Droga5 won GoCompare’s £40m advertising account in March after a pitch against Anomaly and TBWA\London. The review followed the appointment of Zoe Harris as chief marketing officer last year. Before that, the brand had not worked with an agency for four years. 

The many lives of Gio

During the review, there was "definitely a debate" about whether to keep Gio as the mascot, Harris said. As David Kolbusz, chief creative officer at Droga5 London, explained: "Some people love Gio Compario, some people hate him."

Gio is one of the longest-running characters in British advertising. This month marks his 10th anniversary as the brand’s mascot, barring a couple of short breaks – but GoCompare has always brought him back. 

A decade ago, Evans was cast as the voice of the character, while the brand planned to use a separate actor to play Gio. "The story goes that [Evans] walked in to do a sample for the shoot and they were like 'That’s him – that’s Gio,'" Harris said. 

The opera singer became infamous for the delivery of his tune. His irritating qualities were acknowledged in ads, created by Dare between 2012 and 2013, that showed celebrities and members of the public killing Gio before he could start singing.

When Fold7 took over the account in 2013, the agency created work that did not feature Gio at all, but instead focused on a team of insurance experts in a fictional Welsh town. Fold7 split with GoCompare in 2015 over "creative differences".

"Gio is not the problem – he’s iconic. The song became so dominant that it’s an earworm," Harris said. "By toning that down, it’s a smart evolution of him and gives him a different purpose. Introducing Wynne as well adds more dimensions to what we can do."

Harris said that when she tells people she works for GoCompare, "their faces light up and they sing the song to you", proving the power of the character. 

"He’s an incredibly valuable asset," she said. "GoCompare's advertising is incredibly effective, so you have to be really careful when you move something on."

Kolbusz added: "Regardless of how you feel about Britain’s most ubiquitous tenor, you never forget him." 

Making insurance less boring

Refreshing a longtime brand asset proved a creative challenge. However, another difficulty was finding an interesting way to talk about GoCompare’s actual business: helping people find the right insurance. 

"The idea of talking about insurance is surprising, because no other comparison-site advertising has done that," Harris said. "That’s something Droga5 talked about in the pitch – the idea that insurance might be boring, but the reasons you make a claim are highly emotive. Having a car accident or a car broken into are the things of films and reality shows. 

"We’re defeating ourselves by saying insurance is boring, so let’s make all these entertaining ads and use tricks and characters and gimmicks, because we don't want to talk about the actual product we have."

This is a critical focus because the price-comparison market has become more competitive in recent years, Harris explained. 

"When the category started, it was all about salience and which site you think of first. The reason that’s changed is now consumers compare the comparison sites – a lot of them go to two or three," she said. "Being top of mind is still important, but you need to have more depth to that. 

"When you get to the point of purchase, what’s going to nudge it your way? You have to stand for something and we want to be the number-one choice for car insurance."

The campaign aims to get this message across "without losing the essence of what GoCompare is. It still has humour but a different type of humour," Harris said.

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