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Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007 at 1:47 pm

Geico Jumps the Shark with “Cavemen” Sitcom

By Robert Gorell
October 3rd, 2007


One of the best things to happen this year is the term “jumping the shark” sinking its teeth into the pop lexicon. Eventually, though, even this perfect phrase must itself jump the shark. But, hey, that’s evolution. So goes ABC’s “Cavemen” — a sitcom based on the popular Geico ads — which debuted last night amid the dorsal fins of critics, bloggers, and critical bloggers.

New York Magazine captured the pre-shark-jump jitters:

. . .when this show was pitched to America as “the Geico Cavemen show” that it became laughable (and not in the good way). Yes, we are pretty sure this is gonna suck. But isn’t there even the slightest chance it won’t? After all, it’s not the worst idea for a commercial turned sitcom anyone could have come up with. What if it’s good?

Now let’s take a look at some of the initial reaction. Here’s Jay Black from the TV Squad blog:

There’s been a considerable amount of morbid curiosity surrounding Cavemen. Would it transcend its bad buzz and go on to be a seven-season television institution? Or would it wind up on the flop-heap of history? The answer after the jump…The short answer, for those of you only interested in that sort of thing:

It’s a flop. A major flop. The kind of flop that makes Steven Bochco feel okay about Cop Rock again.

Ouch! Cop Rock? Anyone who recalls that awful show can feel that zinger. But if it’s truly that bad, maybe I do want to see it.[Hollers off-stage] “Roll the clip… ”

(If you’re reading this via RSS, click here for video.)

Hmm… Looks like it might be funny, so long as they don’t overreach — which is exactly why Time Magazine wasn’t too impressed:

The mistake the show’s creators made in the first place was taking the sophisticated, low-key humor of the Geico commercials and making it sitcommy. What makes the Geico ads memorable is that their humor comes from playing the cavemen absolutely straight: they’re successful, business-trip-taking, therapy-going, bourgie members of society who happen to run up against reminders of discrimination.

The Cavemen sitcom turned them into another variation of three guys sitting on a couch, and that made the satire play broader, dumber and thus, at least to some people, more offensive [...]

[...] Don’t get me wrong; the original Cavemen pilot was uneven, but it had a point of view and potential. If ABC had had the conviction to stand behind the concept it bought, recognizing that of course people were going to make fun of them for it, they would at least have had the chance of proving the skeptics wrong. As it is, it looks like they’re just praying for the series’ quick extinction.

Thanks to National Geographic (and Google), I’ve found that, yes, prehistoric sharks still exist. Maybe there’s hope for Cavemen after all.

From the Caveman's CribRegardless, there’s not much hope for the show’s website, It’s Flash-heavy, slow-loading, and does an awkward — albeit admirable — job of re-branding the (GEICO) Cavemen around Apple’s (APPL) iPhone. Doesn’t the show’s mere existence do enough to dilute Geico’s brand? Their commercials are fun, but Geico’s marketing slips when it stops jumping sharks and starts crossing channels.

Is multi-channel marketing so easy a caveman could do it? Take our Cro-Magnon Neanderthal Challenge and find out.

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Comments (10)

  1. So is this an ABC show or NBC? Video says ABC but you say NBC. Either way, The trailer is great, but I can’t imagine people getting in to this long-term. A movie however seems to be a more clever approach. Wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not already in the works.

  2. Ryan,

    Yeah, that was a typo. Thanks.

  3. FYI…

    The website is totally unrelated to the TV show. Its initial creation happened long before the TV was even planned.

    As for your opinion of the site itself, you are in a serious minority. Not only has the site been featured as an Adobe “Site of the Day”, it has also received platinum honors in the Hermes Creative Award competition in the Web site overall category. Of course, a quick google of will also reveal an overwhelming appreciation of the site.

    I recognize that “Cavemen” the TV show is an easy target right now, but I think you’re off track about the website. Especially since you misattribute it.

  4. Carl,

    The site may be fantastic, for all I know. But it took so long to load, I bailed. There’s no copy on the homepage, so, as a first-time visitor, I have no idea why it’s worth the wait. But I’ll take your word on it and wait through the upload at some point and report back. And, assuming you’re correct about the other points, I’ll revise the post.

    Still, I think this only goes further to make my point that there are unintended consequences of doing an ad spin-off sitcom like this for the brands involved. I was just sharing my second-hand impression of the show as someone who’s hearing about it from other channels. I think it’s pretty clear that I haven’t even seen the show yet — but that’s my point. I had one impression of what the cavemen were about, and now it just feels like they’re overreaching. Maybe I’m wrong, but the impression is still valid. (Wish I could find the post/article where I found the link to, but I can’t. Regardless, other people have made the same assumption, so there’s definitely a disconnect here.)

    Regardless, it’s interesting what they’ve done with the cavemen. This is new territory. But as potential Geico customers see all of this disconnected caveman content, it’s quite possible that people will tune out. Channel fatigue doesn’t take long these days.

    Thank you for writing in to clarify.

  5. Well, count me in the serious minority. What’s the point of the site? And it takes so long to load after I clicked on a selection, I came back over here to write this. Wait a sec, audio just came on….Oh, like wow, man. I’m looking at their apartment. I can click and zoom! And they’re playing music for me! How exciting. What will they think of next?

    Award-winning doesn’t mean the same as good. (One of my pet peeves about web design for business.)

    As for the show, I liked the commercials, but even if they maintained the tone and style, I just can’t see how they can keep the fun going. Same as with a lot of the SNL movies.

  6. ABC cancelled the George Lopez show and replaced it with this garbage. Maybe they should hire George as a consultant for Cavemen. You know, to give them a clue about humor and race relations in America.

  7. No, I guess the site isn’t for everybody. Neither is the majority of programming that’s available on TV or the internet.

    I find the site interesting for a number of reasons. First, whether you like it or not, it’s a remarkable way of advertising. There’s no doubt that “the point” of the site is to sell insurance. But, the way that it is done is so different than the norm. The site is an entertaining look at a character that is associated with a car insurance company. GEICO is hardly mentioned on the site, and when it is, the comments aren’t exactly favorable.

    Despite the fact that the character doesn’t like the product, the viewer tends to have a favorable view of GEICO for having a sense of humor about it. I find that the subtlety of the site is very refreshing.

    Another reason I like the site is that it’s different. Most people can agree that there’s “good” advertising and “bad” advertising. Certainly, agreeing on which is good and bad can be bit difficult, but GEICO’s advertising has been viewed among the best for a long time. What’s the point in seeing the same old commercial style over and over? (A case in point: nearly every local car dealership spot in the country.) GEICO’s ads, and this site, are new ways of advertising car insurance. Come on, until recently, when have people ever discussed a car insurance ad?

    And lastly, I think the site is funny. I think the actor, Jeff Daniels, does a great job. He’s subtle, sarcastic, hurt and sympathetic. He’s not going to be my best friend, but he’s amusing to hang out with for awhile. Plus, the updated version of the site brings in additional characters that are unique and have their own stories.

    All in all, I think the GEICO team that has created all of this is doing a great job creating a whole world for these characters that is far more entertaining and funny than the TV show.

  8. [...] was a comment a while back on Robert Gorell’s post about disliking a website. So, what’s wrong with being in the minority? Maybe that minority (serious or otherwise) is: [...]

  9. Totally agree with this statement: The mistake the show’s creators made in the first place was taking the sophisticated, low-key humor of the Geico commercials and making it sitcommy.” I mean that was a really huge mistake

  10. Does anyone know how it rated in the end?

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