Thursday, May 17, 2007

GEICO Cavemen Get Sitcom

The cavemen in the GEICO Insurance commercials -- the creation of a local advertising copywriter -- might think they don't get the respect they deserve. But, starting this fall, they'll have their own TV series. "Cavemen," a half-hour comedy inspired by commercials created by The Martin Agency's Joe Lawson, is part of ABC's fall schedule, the network announced yesterday. The commercials, which began in fall 2004, promote as "so easy, a caveman could do it," with the hairy-but-sophisticated prehistoric males reacting to the stereotype in a variety of situations. Lawson, on sabbatical from the Richmond-based ad agency, will serve as the show's writer and co-executive producer. The comedy is being produced by ABC Studios. ABC is describing the social satire as a "unique buddy comedy that offers a clever twist on stereotypes and turns race relations on their head." Three modern-day cavemen, played by Bill English, Nick Kroll and Dash Mihok, will be shown attempting -- and failing -- to assimilate into mainstream society. The sitcom cavemen are being played by different actors from those seen in the commercials. TV series inspired by commercials are rare, but not unheard of.Five years ago, CBS' "Baby Bob" was a short-lived comedy based on commercials featuring a talking baby. In the late'80s, the California Raisins had their own animated children's show. "The cavemen campaign started with a simple premise. Our guys in the creative department got a brief that said, ' is really easy to use. How do we get that across to our customers?'" said Dean Jarrett, spokesman for The Martin Agency, Richmond's premier ad shop. In looking for a group that could be targeted as not smart, the creative department came up with the idea of using cavemen -- but cavemen who were still around and offended by being labeled as stupid. "America has fallen in love with the cavemen, and I'm not sure why," said Jarrett, although he has heard that people like the tension created by a main character who is angry at the company being advertised. "From the beginning, the cavemen were specific characters. There was a story line, there was conflict, there was humor -- all the things that networks want to hear when you go to pitch a sitcom," said Steve Bassett, creative director of the GEICO account, ticking off reasons the cavemen were a sitcom waiting to happen. "There's already a national following. Almost everyone knows the GEICO cavemen." Although the original actors for the ads read for the parts, "they went with actors they felt were better for the show," Bassett said. "I think it's kind of good in a way. We're expanding the community of the cavemen. It's good to get to know other cavemen and their issues." And how does the GEICO gecko feel about a younger generation of commercial spokesmen getting so much attention? "I guess green with envy is too obvious," Jarrett said. Today, it's the GEICO cavemen who are digging their way into pop culture immortality.