Thursday, March 22, 2007

Media: The Evolution of the Postmodern Caveman

Esquire interviews the creative team behind the Geiko Caveman commercial series, which is now rumored to be coming in sit-com format from ABC.
The Evolution of the Postmodern Caveman

How Geico turned Cro-Magnon man into a sitcom star.
By Erin Schulte

In a world increasingly populated by emasculated metrosexuals, the pop-culture caveman -- he of the grunting, stupid and brutish variety -- is a visceral reminder that man's raw sexual urges can't be completely sublimated. (It's why Colin Farrell has so much charm.) There's something sexy about knowing there's a man out there somewhere who wants to grab a fistful of your hair, drag you back to his pit, and have his way with you.

But you won't find him in a Geico commercial.

Enter the age of the postmodern caveman: He whines about his domineering mother in therapy. He orders the roast duck with mango salsa. He sells automobile insurance for Geico.

And now -- he might have his own sitcom. Earlier this month Variety reported that ABC is developing a half-hour show based on the Geico caveman characters. The script was written by Joe Lawson, the advertising copywriter behind the Geico series.

The Geico caveman sprung from the pages of a creative brief sent to the insurer from its advertising agency, The Martin Agency. We sat down with Geico and The Martin Agency's creative team to plumb the appeal of their hypersensitive Cro-Mags.

So what were you smoking during the brainstorming session? Where did the idea for the caveman come from?

Steve Bassett, creative director, The Martin Agency: The Paleozoic era?

But why a caveman?

Ted Ward, vice president of marketing, Geico: Here you have this Neanderthal from hundreds of thousands of years ago, in today's world. We liked the visual juxtaposition of current technology and cave people coming together.

Bassett: We wanted to communicate that was very simple to use, and that people shouldn't be scared to get a rate quote.

People seem to love the lumpy-headed characters. What do you think their appeal is?

Joe Lawson, associate creative director, The Martin Agency: Obviously, it's their incredible sex appeal.

No, really.

Lawson: On a base level, everyone likes humor, and we use dialogue driven humor, whereas most commercials or sitcoms are over the top or slapstick. People are leaning more toward subtle, character driven dialogue. It's why shows like The Office and single-camera comedies, like Extras, do well.

There's no broader social commentary that can be derived from it?

Lawson: The cavemen on a very subtle level are reflecting and commenting on something that's going on in culture, yes. The ad campaign acknowledges the world we live in, and ours is a politically correct country. People seem to feel victimized in some way no matter who they are, and that's reflected in the ad.

When did you know they were a hit?

Lawson: I think we knew they were catching on when SportsCenter used one of the lines from the "Apology," the "roast duck with mango salsa" line. In addition to that, the comments on YouTube were really positive. And the spots were getting a ton of views. But basically there's no real way of knowing whether your audience is responding to the work or not. You just put it our there and hope for the best. Advertising is not a science, nor is it an art. It's an abyss. You learn all you can, you use every tool you have, but in the end, if you're doing what you're supposed to do, you're going where no one's gone before. Regardless, after the second round of commercials came out, we knew we had something. The press and the blogosphere were definitely taking notice.

Read the rest.

The "Apology" ad. Courtesy

The "Airport" ad. Courtesy

The "Therapy" ad. Courtesy

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