People are confronted with an obviously irrational situation. For whatever dishonorable reason, the people participate anyway (except, of course, the elderly couple who were completely duped; probably precisely because the producers knew that if told up front that they were taking a “car insurance taste test” they would be the least likely to continue). The message of these commercials is “look how stupid or fearful most people are” (the fact that some feature people who realize immediately what is happening and play along, but in an over-the-top, insincere way does not change the message. It merely includes them in the same category as the audience). This message is expected to appeal to people, and to endear GEICO to them for the reason that the people who make up GEICO evidently share the same attitudes and personalities as the demographic these commercials target.
Which demographic do these commercials target? Young adults. Why? Because young adults, more than any other demographic besides perhaps criminals and the clergy, truly believe that the essence of human nature is irrationality and immorality (specifically, in this instance, cowardice). Not the irrationality of creating scenarios like this – in their twisted minds, manipulative power games like this are perfectly rational provided you can get your ends met by engaging in them – but the irrationality of failing to do anything except dismiss, immediately and without qualification, any attempt by someone to get you to do something absurd like take a “car insurance taste test.” Similarly, not the immorality of wasting people’s time for the sake of your own twisted, short-term goals – again, perfectly rational provided it “works” – but the immorality of being unable to refuse to have your time wasted when it hits you that that’s all that is happening.
The young have reached the spiritual low point where they believe that to tear down (or to at least help keep down) is the same as to create and uplift and enrich. They operate on the philosophical premise that there is no objective reality, and therefore there is no such thing as rationality, and therefore there is no objective human nature, and therefore there is no such thing as right and wrong. Instead, all there is is whatever you feel like doing. Whatever you can get away with. If people have become so conditioned to expect anything to make sense that they can’t even reject what clearly doesn’t make sense when they have no stake in the matter besides perhaps an unkind word from a stranger, then they deserve what they get (which is ironic and self-defeating, because part of what motivates these people to play along with a “car insurance taste test” is the hope of being deemed important and valuable by some weak, irrational mind, so that they can do they exact same to others: them).
These commercials give young adults solace from the guilt they (deserve to) feel as a result of the professions many of them choose, by providing them with validation of philosophical premises many of them aren’t even aware that they hold. The emotional manifestations of those ideas are tapped, they feel a sense of intimacy and psychological visibility, (hopefully) they connect those feelings with GEICO, and the company – desperate to remain profitable in today’s politically-controlled, unpredictable economic environment – meets it’s earnings goals for the next quarter. What about the fact by further inculcating in young adults, who are only going to increase in political and economic influence, their worst ideas you’re ensuring an even more desperate and unpredictable business climate quarters to come? Aw, there’s no objective reality, no such thing as logic, and no right and wrong except what “works” right now, in this moment.