Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

January 26, 2007

The Geico Caveman Finally Jumps the Shark…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 11:02 am

And just when he hit his peak. The caveman in the Geico ads is perhaps the most enigmatic character on tv now.

For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of the series: Geico supposedly had run an ad saying, about their on-line auto insurance, “So easy even a caveman can do it.”

Then these two “real” cave men, who seem to live in a contemporary apartment and watch tv dressed like the rest of us– see it and protest. In the next ad–and this is the iconic one–a Geico exec takes them to a fancy nouvelle style restaurant to apologize. The iconic moment is when the two cavemen order. One tells the waiter with barely suppressed fury, “I’ll have the roast duck with mango salsa”. (as in “AS IF you can buy me off with this dated 90s era cuisine”). The other closes his menu and says, with a LOT of sarcastic attitude, “I’m sorry I don’t have much of an appetite.”

While the latter is the more in-your-face defiant and barely suppressed angry response, it is the former–“I’ll have the roast duck with mango salsa” that has somehow become iconic.

I’m not sure why? Maybe it’s just one of those great line-readings that somehow seem to say a lot without coming out and saying it Maybe because it embodies all the surreal contradictions the realistically filmed ad plays with. Cavemen don’t exist, really, but somehow they’re au courant enough to be unimpressed by now antiquated nouvelle cuisine. What’s up with that? Mango salsa indeed!.

It offered something that was both funny and puzzling in a provocative way. Where are they going with this, are they making a mistake by making the ad’s novelty more prominent than the ad’s product, always a danger with “creative” advertising?

Roast duck with mango salsa, What gives? Whatever it was, it certainly stayed with me. Our sympathies usually are with the offended group in offensive ads, but somehow the sniffy attitude of the cavemen, something about their a-little-too-neat J. Crew type gear, their self aggrandizing sense of grievance, went against the grain of that impulse.

And what does it say about contemporary civilization? Is it suggesting that there’s an all too easily offended cavemen within each of us? Just how civilized were the cavemen? Just how much more advanced than them are we?

I’m not sure why, but it was one of the few gimmick commercials that didn’t exhaust itself on the gimmick. It was the gimmick that kept on giving.

Roast duck with mango salsa. I never got tired of the delivery of that line.

But then they topped it with the Fox cable parody, where the faux-tough announcer who filled half the screen said “Face it you guys have had some trouble evolving”. And the caveman in the upper right quadrant delivers another iconic rejoinder with exasperated fashion-intern snark: “You know I’m not a hundred per cent in love with your tone.” In a tone that’s a hundred per cent in love with its own sarcasm. Followed by, “Yeah, walking upright, discovering fire, inventing the wheel creating the foundation of civilization–sorry we couldn’t get that to you sooner.”


Following which, in the lower quadrant, we get the Liz Cheny type tartly observing, “Sounds like somebody got up on the wrong side of the rock.”

Love that too.

I’m sure I’m not the first to celebrate the virtuosity of that ad not mention the whole campaign. But I may be the first I’ve seen to say that–with the new “therapist” ad–the Caveman campaign has “jumped the shark” (I know saying something has “jumped the shark”–made a telling failed leap for innovation that betrays its lost freshness– has itself jumped the shark).

But here’s my theory about why the “therapist” ad jumped the shark:I think we like the mystique of the cavemen, the ridiculous premise carried to absurdly realistic lengths. That’s why the banality of the squash racket carrying airport ad was important. It’s triviality highlighted the exquisite silliness of the whole thing.

But the therapist ad suddenly reduces the provocative absurdity, the mystery of it all to tired Woody Allen schtick. The caveman is whining to his therapist about why the Geico caveman slogan bothers him so much.

Then his cell phone rings. “It’s my mother, I’ll put her on speaker”, he says. Sorry, it just doesn’t cut it. It’s more Seinfeld than Kafka.

It’s not too late to save the caveman series, but I think it’s time for a strategy session at the ad agency.
“First of all, I’m not a hundred per cent in love with the tone of this article. Maybe next time you should do a little research.”



  1. Concur. The juxtaposed squash racquet and apeman knotted club, coupled with the wordless and absolutely priceless double-take was the acme of the series. Finally, a something-sapien ethno-group we can all safely use as the butt of a joke and discriminate against (well, smokers, too, of course). The psychotherapist is a joke too near, not far enough. GEICO’s done such a superlative job (at c. $400 million in ads a year) positioning itself as insurance different, non-threatening and amusingly in-step with our times (even ahead), that they need to find the next, non-logical step to further advance the notion of their superiority as underwriters. I await the next caveman spot (or something else) with real relish. Check that. With real mango salsa.

    Comment by Alex K. — January 27, 2007 @ 8:28 pm | Reply

  2. I prefer the therap ad to the one with the political talk show angle, which makes me think that I spend too much time watching TV and not enough time talking to therapists. Perhaps just relative to you?

    But your world frightens and confuses me. I’m just a caveman.

    Comment by Tyrone Slothrop — January 27, 2007 @ 9:08 pm | Reply

  3. The VW commercials “time to pimp the auto” are the only ones worth bypassing the 30 second skip on the TiVo.

    Comment by dm — January 27, 2007 @ 9:57 pm | Reply

  4. My favorite is the airport one.
    but , sheesh, i hate the psychotherapist one. It strikes all the wrong notes.
    Unfortunately, I can’t think of an instance when a shark has been unjumped.

    Comment by seePea — January 27, 2007 @ 11:04 pm | Reply

  5. You may be right but I like them all and, better yet for GEICO, my college son and all his friends feel the same way.

    Comment by DRJ — January 28, 2007 @ 12:51 am | Reply

  6. Mmm, no, the therapist ad is not jumping the shark.

    Now if the GEICO caveman catches and eats the GEICO gekko, now that would be jumping the shark.

    Comment by lewy14 — January 28, 2007 @ 5:28 am | Reply

  7. The ads come out of the Martin Agency here in beautiful Richmond, VA. As a result, the whole GEICO campaign is frequently discussed in the local media, and I think I’ve read that the caveman series is meant to end after just one more ad.

    In one interview, one of the creative guys behind the series said something like, “Intead of being frozen in some distant, prehistoric past, they’re stuck in 1986.” (I loved that.)

    Comment by Sterling — January 28, 2007 @ 7:01 am | Reply

  8. Very good take. Thanks.

    You passed over a detail that I have always found amusing, and that’s the contrast in clothing between the two “cavemen”.

    The “Roast Duck” guy is dressed like an Italian lounge lizard grabbing a poolside lunch on St. Tropez: $400 D&G sunglasses perched precisely so on top of his head, and wearing a one button white Gucci blazer with possibly an extra button undone, and is just slightly slouched in his chair in a delightfully Euro-trash sore of way.

    Of course he finds the “so-1998” cuisine beneath him – he finds a good deal of the world bourgeois anyway.

    The other guy is wearing a JC Penney short sleeved white shirt. He’so unstylish it doesn’t even register. He’s a geek.

    The other fascinating aspect of all of this – to me, anyway – is that while the lounge lizard delivers the iconic line, one which has permeated the culture to an unbelieveable degree, he is not the character who GEICO uses to carry the campaign forward.

    This is the first and only time we see him.

    Comment by Futsal Fred — January 28, 2007 @ 7:43 am | Reply

  9. I absolutely loath the caveman ads. What group of morons told an ad agency that what they REALLY needed to convince them to buy car insurance was a caveman?

    Horrible commercials, and the quicker they are taken off the air, the better it will be for all of us.

    Now the Dr. Pepper “I want it all!” — that my friends is marketing gold.

    Comment by Kevin — January 28, 2007 @ 8:07 am | Reply

  10. Who the hell is Liz Cheny? Do you mean Liz Cheney, the VP’s daughter, who works or worked at the State Dept.? Who even knows what she looks like? And what is that Fox News Channel reference? Only Fox hosts ask “in your face” questions? (MSNBC, anyone?) I agree with your evaluation of the commercials, but I, like the caveman, am not 100% in love with the tone of your article.

    Comment by Michael Hertzberg — January 28, 2007 @ 8:30 am | Reply

  11. Saw a new one last night, all the cavemen are at a party at a high-rise overlooking a cityscape, and one of the cavemen has bought Geico insurance to save money. Another one questioning his loyalty. Didn’t catch the whole thing, but it looks pretty good.

    Comment by MathMom — January 28, 2007 @ 8:38 am | Reply

  12. In the airport ad, his friend from the restaurant is in the advertisement. He sold out.

    Comment by Jeff — January 28, 2007 @ 8:39 am | Reply

  13. I liked the caveman series, even felt it was necessary, because it makes it official: grievance culture is now mockable.

    I think not that long ago it would have been widely viewed as veiled racism.

    Comment by TallDave — January 28, 2007 @ 8:43 am | Reply

  14. The therapist one is the worst one in the series.

    Have you seen the other new one where they are at the party, and one of them is complaining because the other cavemen treat him bad because he bought Geico insurance?

    The best one is the airport one though…

    Comment by gahrie — January 28, 2007 @ 8:48 am | Reply

  15. Personally I think it is an annoying series of commericals.

    I do the v-dub commericals that dm mentioned.

    Comment by Anon — January 28, 2007 @ 8:50 am | Reply

  16. Can’t agree. The Geico ads remain the best thing on TV at the moment – and largely because your comment that “[o]ur sympathies usually are with the offended group in offensive ads” is just not true. One of the most tiresome things we live with today is victim culture/the offence-taking industry, which these ads do a wonderful job of undermining. Giving an extra finger to therapy/therapists is just a bonus.

    Comment by KevinK — January 28, 2007 @ 8:52 am | Reply

  17. The therapist was played by Talia Shire (as in Rocky.) Does anyone know who play the cavemen?

    Comment by John Costello — January 28, 2007 @ 9:07 am | Reply

  18. Well, in my eyes the whole “sophisticated caveman” thing is a thin ripoff of Phil Hartman’s old “Caveman Lawyer” etc. the basic premise was that he exploited the idea he was a “naive caveman” as a lawyer, but talked into a cellphone incessantly and did other things that belied the idea he was primative. That’s the basis of the entire caveman persona in these ads, and its a straight lift.

    Phil Hartman, great comedian and voice actor, as well as graphic artist (he did the band “America’s” logo and iconic covers, among others). RIP.

    Comment by docweasel — January 28, 2007 @ 9:10 am | Reply

  19. “It’s my mother, I’ll put her on speaker.” Hilarious, I like any ad that pokes fun at Freudian pseudoscience.
    My idea for an ad: the gecko and caveman are at the ad agency where a decision must be made to discontinue one of the story lines.
    Gecko: Let me tell you, this caveman angle has been played.
    Caveman:This from a gekkonidae who aspires to be a diplodocus.
    [The caveman then grabs the gecko and pops him into his mouth.]
    Caveman [while chewing]:Hardly a snack.

    Geico may use this idea for free.

    Comment by al — January 28, 2007 @ 9:10 am | Reply

  20. I always thought that the therapist ad was hilarious. Talia Shire’s facial expressions are priceless!

    Comment by biff — January 28, 2007 @ 9:21 am | Reply

  21. I love the series. I’m dense enough not to have sensed the deeper meaning of the mango salsa line, but I still love the whole thing. I don’t agree with you on the airport ad–I think it’s bizarrely touching. As an aside, it’s an exceptionally popular commercial partly for the music. I’m still getting a hundred daily search-engine hits at my blog after posting two or three months ago about who does it (it’s an old Röyskopp tune).

    Comment by Christopher Fotos — January 28, 2007 @ 9:33 am | Reply

  22. Love the caveman ads but I’m a bit puzzled about the parallel gecko campaign we still get with the cockney lizard. Why are they still airing this tired symbol ?

    Comment by Anonymous — January 28, 2007 @ 9:34 am | Reply

  23. I thought it was Talia Shire. I love the Geico ads-both caveman and gecko. I am hoping they have something big and new planned for the Super Bowl.

    Comment by Madeline Fickinger — January 28, 2007 @ 9:40 am | Reply

  24. I liked the airport walkway scene best because it’s basically pantomine and brings out the narcissistic character of the offended figure so well. I must not be one of the kewl kids because I have never heard anyone make reference to the roast duck in conversation. Finally, the shots at Fox News were a bit too much. Please try to control your inner snark.

    I think you’re being a little oversensitive (caveman-style?) about Fox News. it’s not a “shot” to call something confrontational or in your face. I enjoy it.r.r.

    Comment by D. B. Light — January 28, 2007 @ 9:49 am | Reply

  25. Disagree.

    I’ll take all the cavemen ads I can get. They’re all excellent, and these dudes are many strokes away from a shark jump.

    Now, if they all of a sudden started whining about Iraq and saying incredibly stupid stuff like “It’s all about the ooiiiiillllll”, I’d agree.

    Comment by paul a'barge — January 28, 2007 @ 10:00 am | Reply

  26. Weird. What has always struck me about the delivery of the “roast duck” line is not that he says it with condescension, but that he says it earnestly. That he almost breaks from grievance-mode for a moment to enjoy the familiar ritual of placing his dinner order. His voice rises at the end of the line — it seems to indicate enthusiasm, not disgust.

    But then, I didn’t know that a dish such as “roast duck with mango salsa” was supposed to signify “dated and passe.” Where are you guys getting that from?

    Comment by Tom — January 28, 2007 @ 10:05 am | Reply

  27. I love all of the Geico caveman ads. The airport ad is one of the best. The music is nice, but you MUST listen to the words sung in the song – very, very appropriate for the subject matter!

    Comment by Kranky Old Guy — January 28, 2007 @ 10:11 am | Reply

  28. Agree that the threapist spot at first appears too blatant & unsubtle. Butw when you view the therapist spot as mockery of the arrogant therapist rather than of the whiny caveman, it becomes great.

    The caveman throwing the therapist’s innate superiority/arrogance right back into her face was priceless. Then his taking the call and putting “Mom” on speaker as if the therapist was not even in the room — priceless!

    I did like the satire on the therapist but wouldn’t you say he was putting mom on speaker so he and the therapist can analyze the mother-son relationship more directly?r.r.

    Comment by deMontjoie — January 28, 2007 @ 10:19 am | Reply

  29. I always thought that Budweiser did a great job of not jumping the shark. Their ads several years ago “Yes, I’m Mister Galeeweekich…” “You mean doctor….?”
    And also “Put down the skunky beer, and slowly back away.” To me, they cut these series of ads before they got stale.
    Of course Miller Lite has had great ads for 25+ years. Too bad the product is dreadful.

    Comment by Ritchie Emmons — January 28, 2007 @ 10:25 am | Reply

  30. I read that restaurant scene differently. I took the order for the roast duck with the mango salsa as a straightforward familiarity for tablecloth cuisine as a perceived alternative to a preference for roasted snake on a spit.

    The money shot, for me, was the closeup of the guy in the shortsleeves who, so unlike a primative, had been put off his feed, and with a slight tilt of the head and a subtle lip sneer dared the host to keep it up with the caveman stuff.

    Comment by Krumhorn — January 28, 2007 @ 10:29 am | Reply

  31. I love the cave man ad and am shocked I have not heard any reference to my favorite.

    “Lizard licks his eyeball…

    I hope I don’t get hit in the reeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaar agaaaaaaaiiin..”

    Who knew I would instantly become a Burt Backarak fan.

    Comment by Bert — January 28, 2007 @ 10:36 am | Reply

  32. We disagree. “Jumping the Shark” came from The Fonz jumping the shark on skis on “Happy Days.” They did it, and advertized it ahead of time, to try and revive ratings.

    Not so with Geico. Its just an ad; not a series trying to save ratings. We really love the whole sneering, self-absorbed tone that the caveman uses in the therapist ad. The cherry on top is when he says he is going to put his mother on speaker. Why else do you go to a therapist but to get help resolving “issues” with mother.

    The caveman ad that we wonder about is the one where two of them are out on the balcony at a party and one says to a third that the first two need a few moments. We wonder whether the implication is that the cavemen are gay. Which would be the ultimate. After all, being gay is so 90’s!

    Well, my interpretation is that they are shunning him because he cooperated with Geico. And I don’t think you need to be so literal about “jumping the shark”. The Fonz origin is pretty common knowledge, but it’s become a common metaphor for a show “going off the rails”. But thanks for the observations anyway.—r.r.

    Comment by Letalis — January 28, 2007 @ 10:54 am | Reply

  33. Well, being a Sopranos fan, I had a different take upon first seeing the psych ad. I saw it as a riff on the caveman-like Tony Soprano, trying to evolve from a thug into a person via talking to a therapist, getting in touch with his inner demons, relationships, etc.

    Of course, Tony devolved into fantasies about his therapist…

    Interesting, hadn’t thought of the Sorpanos ref. the ad is a Rorhshach, to use a therpists’ term. –r.r.

    Comment by Joan of Argghh! — January 28, 2007 @ 11:07 am | Reply

  34. These are some of the funniest/smartest ads ever. I can’t belive that they haven’t been protested yet by any of the usual suspects….

    Comment by TheManTheMyth — January 28, 2007 @ 11:08 am | Reply

  35. Do you ever wonder what the profit margins must be on auto insurance right now that GEICO, Progressive and the new Esure can afford to glut ever TV channel on the continent with commercial after commercial? Were it not for the insurance firms and their touting of their online services, I think at least half a dozen channel would have gone dark by now.

    As far as the ads, I agree that the caveman bit is wearing a little thin now, with both the therapist and the balcony/party ads, but they’re still better than Progressive’s adds featuing ESPN’s Kenny Mane doing sort of a Steven Wright on caffine routine or the Esure animated ads that seem to be targeted at the millions of American drivers who also are fans of Disney’s Kim Possible.

    Comment by John — January 28, 2007 @ 11:19 am | Reply

  36. I envision a scene in which one of the Cavemen comes home for a holiday dinner and his mother remarks about how good it was to see him on the TV. His father gruffly says that he is proud of the way his son has stood up for his principles and points to people around the table with his fork, you should all remember his example. Then his wiseass younger teenaged sister (with the pierced nose) says “You’re all hypocrites! None of you even has GEICO insurance!”, to which dumb brother responds, “I tried that online thing but it’s too complicated”. Mom says “You hush!”. Everybody eats in silence.

    Comment by Cobb — January 28, 2007 @ 11:39 am | Reply

  37. RR: “We wonder whether the implication is that the cavemen are gay. Which would be the ultimate. After all, being gay is so 90’s!”

    — Or perhaps they are “metrosexual”, i.e. heterosexual men who act and dress like they’ve gotten a “queer eye” makeover. I’m not sure the metro phenomenon is 1990’s but it too has become passe.

    Also, the therapist ad gives the nod to another cultural phenomenon: The Sopranos. The therapist is dressed like Tony Soprano’s therapist (played by Loraine Bracco), even down the rectangular-lensed spectacles. The therapist’s office is decorated in simialr fashion.

    What is the message here? A poke at the tough -exteriored cave man (much like the New Jersey mob boss) needing counseling?

    Comment by Paul S. — January 28, 2007 @ 11:42 am | Reply

  38. I’m just tired of the expression, “jump the shark.”

    Comment by stavr0s — January 28, 2007 @ 11:52 am | Reply

  39. I disagree.

    I think the therapist entry is weak, and the campaign is in danger of becoming tired or used up, though that’s not truly shark jumping. However, I do like the line about putting the mother on speaker. It was surprising and funny – it would have been funny in a non-caveman context. That is just what makes it even funnier here. (Not unlike the mango salsa.)

    My all-time favorite, however, is the airport episode. Well-crafted, great expression, perfect musical background.

    I hope the creators take their time and stay as fresh as possible. I also hope the actors go on to fame.

    (“Jumping the shark” is not simply failing to quit while one is ahead. It is purposely juicing up the plot or characters (or adding new characters) in unrealistic/uncharacteristic ways in order to jump-start ratings or take a show in a new (less creative/more simplistic) direction. I see none of that here. It was just not a bulleye.)


    Comment by Middle Browser — January 28, 2007 @ 12:00 pm | Reply

  40. So “Where’s the beef?”

    Comment by M. Simon — January 28, 2007 @ 12:10 pm | Reply

  41. I hate to admit this, but the other day I was discussing this very subject. I know: get a life!

    We thought the therapist ad was good. Where we thought the caveman ad has “jumped the shark” is the new one set on the balcony at a yuppie highrise apartment party. Just one caveman emerging saying he’s getting back together with his old girlfriend and the other saying don’t interrupt the conversation.

    Comment by edhesq — January 28, 2007 @ 12:21 pm | Reply

  42. A therapist joke, huh? It’s like we’re in 1967 all over again.

    Comment by Brian — January 28, 2007 @ 12:22 pm | Reply

  43. John: “Do you ever wonder what the profit margins must be on auto insurance right now…”

    AFAIK, the margins are tiny, but with insurance it’s all about volume, thus the advertising investment.

    Comment by Ben — January 28, 2007 @ 12:28 pm | Reply

  44. The problem with the therapist spot is the actor playing the caveman is not very good. Compared to the restaurant/airport walkway actors he comes across as a very unlikeable sort. The other actors are fun to watch; this one, not so much.

    Comment by Ken — January 28, 2007 @ 12:45 pm | Reply

  45. Interestingly, these ads are a continuation of a rather old (in media terms) ad that had a caveman on the set of the original “So easy a caveman can do it” commercial. The caveman threw down the microphone boom in disgust (obviously being offended by the tagline).

    The current ads embrace and extend the concept in a brilliant way, showing how the cavemen are hip and modern and completely unlike the stereotype presented by the GEICO fake-ad. I love these ads as much as the new VW “unpimp the auto” ads.

    Comment by Neo — January 28, 2007 @ 1:00 pm | Reply

  46. As one who giggles inwardly every time I see these ads I must disagree with you. The caveman and the therapist offering is perfectly in line with the entire genre. In fact I giggle more reliably at, ” It’s my mother I’ll put her on speaker.” than at any other caveman punchline.

    Comment by Scott — January 28, 2007 @ 1:15 pm | Reply

  47. The first in a series is always the best one. Additional episodes strain the premise as the creators run out of workable ideas. Remember the instant coffee commercials which told a great love story? It was the best acting on TV at the time.

    What the world needs is a Whinners Club with real membership cards to hand out.

    Comment by JimboNC — January 28, 2007 @ 1:45 pm | Reply

  48. I love them all. They’re aimed at 20-somethings (maximum lifetime insurance customers) so I doubt any intentional reference to the passe 90s.

    You are the cavemen, and you identify with, aspire to, the cool, sardonic defense against an insensitive, loud, blustery, intrusive world.

    The therapist ad seems slightly different, imho, because it’s the first to play against that insensitivity. Thus the therapist, as the supposed antithesis to insensitivity, needed a slightly more “injured” caveman (the knees together and the withdrawal into his PDA).

    Genius work, really.

    Comment by buddy larsen — January 28, 2007 @ 2:02 pm | Reply

  49. I think the next Geico ad should be a backyard barbeque with caveman and friends. He lights the the coals, gets a shooting flame to start, and the friends rush over and oo and ah at the fire. Caveman closes eyes, shakes head and sighs.

    Comment by Thomas Hazlewood — January 28, 2007 @ 2:07 pm | Reply

  50. “roast duck with mango salsa” always tickles my funnybone. Soon this caveman is going to be tearing at a big roasted bird with his massive teeth. There will be strings of meat in his beard, grease in his hairy hands and garish orange salsa all over that brand-new Brothers Gibb suit. Plus a roast duck is a lot of food. It’ll take awhile to eat. Noisy too. Time will crawl for the Geico guy as the snotty one with no appetite continues to glare across the table. Just brilliant. BRILLIANT

    Comment by qcifer — January 28, 2007 @ 2:26 pm | Reply

  51. At least they moved on and no longer insult the Amish.

    For a long time, they were the only distinct minority that “the hip” could insult with impunity. I never heard them fight back either.

    While the Amish are deliberately out of touch with modern mores, picking on cavemen seems like open season.

    Comment by Whitehall — January 28, 2007 @ 2:26 pm | Reply

  52. Are you kidding? I haven’t seen a bad ad yet in this series. The therapist ad and the one with the cavemen on the balcony are both wonderful. No shark has been jumped here. Not even close.

    “It’s my mother. I’ll put her on speaker…” Priceless!

    Comment by Hiawatha Bray — January 28, 2007 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

  53. The genius of this campaign is proven by its ability to generate this much buzz. All the spots are excellent. I prefer the therapist because, without too much introspection, the caveman’s use of a cell phone and his topper of identifying the caller as his mother, is the antithesis of caveman reality. Yeah, I know it all is. But that scene, with the 2006ish “I’ll put her on speaker” just knocks me out.
    Of course, if you are looking for logic, TV commercials are pretty barren hunting grounds.

    Comment by William — January 28, 2007 @ 3:13 pm | Reply

  54. “Our sympathies usually are with the offended group in offensive ads, but somehow the sniffy attitude of the cavemen, something about their a-little-too-neat J. Crew type gear, their self aggrandizing sense of grievance, went against the grain of that impulse.”


    Are our sympathies really with the offended group? Stereotypes are a shortcut to punch lines and since 30 seconds is scant time for a story arc, Geico cleverly found a stereotype that didn’t have a complaint group mechanism. Then they put the postmodern touch on it by showing the absurdity of that group being offended anyway.

    Who doesn’t wish that group offense wasn’t met with more apathy? Finally Geico has allowed us to poke fun at the overly sensitive instead of having to publicly nod our head to the faux injustice of it all.

    I think that’s the genius of the whole thing.

    Comment by Junto Tom — January 28, 2007 @ 3:26 pm | Reply

  55. Excellent take on the first few productions. While the therapist episode isn’t firing on all cylinders I’d hardly classify it as jumping the shark.

    It does have a slightly different perspective from the early takes. The caveman is less of an enigma and certainly not likeable nor deserving of respect. At least compared to all of the other characters, who displayed a high degree of self worth. But his all too easy takedown of the therapist does fit the template. Overall I’d call it a mis-step into victimology.

    Comment by ThomasD — January 28, 2007 @ 3:28 pm | Reply

  56. I’ll second NEO – the first one is still my favorite, particularly the caveman on the couch who looks up from his Mac laptop to say “That is REALLY condescending”. I loved the restaurant ad too; didn’t care for the O’Reilly parody or the airport.

    Comment by J — January 28, 2007 @ 4:06 pm | Reply

  57. Hmmmm.

    Actually the therapist ad is my favorite.

    I’ve known quite a few people who’ve gone to therapy for many years for many problems both real and imaginary. The whole caveman victim-status schtick falls right into line with all of the other ads. It doesn’t matter that the intent isn’t to turn cavemen into victims. What matters is they feel that they’re victims and, for them, that’s all that’s necessary. So for them it’s the triumph of feeling over fact.

    A singular aspect of liberal victimology of today.

    Frankly I view the Geico advertisements as not just good advertising gimmicks but also a very subtly sarcastic commentary of the industry of victimization.

    *shrug* I rather like the series.

    Comment by ed — January 28, 2007 @ 5:05 pm | Reply

  58. I guess I didn’t “get” the ads until the deconstruction here, which makes me wonder how many others did not, which makes me question their brilliance anew. Never have particularly cared for the series (and the gecko ones have not been funny for some time, sadly), though they’ve grown on me a bit (particularly the airport one; the “I don’t have much of an appetite” and the “I’ll put her on speaker” lines I liked as well, though perhaps not for the reasons others here express (though I now think r.r. is probably right this is the opening of an oedipal complex discussion)). All that said, I gained some appreciation for them from this thread.

    Comment by Jackie — January 28, 2007 @ 6:02 pm | Reply

  59. Don’t know, but I have my suspicions are that the GEICO and Progessive ad campaigns are a bit like the old AOL expensive practice of mailing out all those millions of free trial CDs and floppies before broadband really took off.
    It was a constant, desperate scramble to get new customers faster than they lost them — due to sky high prices in AOL’s case. Most customers ultimately wised up.

    In the case of these insurance companies I imagine they lowball you to get you un the door then rape you once you have an accident, which would lead to higher turnover in the end.

    Comment by newscaper — January 28, 2007 @ 6:18 pm | Reply

  60. Come on people. This is just an advertising gig. Get a real life.

    Please tell us what it is about about your extremely important real life that makes you superior to the other commenters. We all want to know.

    Comment by Steve — January 28, 2007 @ 7:25 pm | Reply

  61. Another Geico commercial has an office surprise party for a young woman who reacts by kicking the cake-bearing man in the ‘nads, and he collapses and goes first first into the cake.

    I’m not usually a fan of kick-in-the-scrotum humor, but the woman’s expression is sheer genius: Her kick is involuntary, probably because of the self-defense training she got, and she knows it’s the wrong thing to do. She knows she’s overreacting, but she can’t help it. There’s even a pronounced delay between the shout of “Surprise!” and the kick, making it clear that the woman has been brainwashed into thinking that any attention from men is negative and threatening.

    The man’s grunt is delivered perfectly, too. It’s a short, high-pitched “Oop!” that somehow conveys his benign nature. We feel sympathy for him, because he was just trying to be nice and got kicked in the groin for his efforts, but the sound is also silly enough that we can laugh.

    Once again a brilliant and sly bit of social commentary.

    Comment by Tom W. — January 28, 2007 @ 8:01 pm | Reply

  62. I just hate these ads, deconstructed or not. If you have to dig that far to get a joke, it really isn’t funny.

    Just having one of the cavemen club the condescending person would be much funnier.

    The idea of al Jan 28, 2007 09:10 AM is brilliant and would be even better.

    Comment by Jim C. — January 28, 2007 @ 8:42 pm | Reply

  63. I am one of several million Americans who are regularly mistaken for the cavemen. I’m getting to feel rather close to them. Now, the credit card out-of-work plunderers–*that* was “victimless ethnic” humor, and could have been filmed on Main St in my town, without extras. I invited a “tribe” of people over for Christmas dinner, and served roast duck with mango salsa–then had to explain the joke.

    Comment by Comatus (look it up) — January 29, 2007 @ 1:17 am | Reply

  64. As Andrew Klavan recently wrote in the LA Times:

    “In all fairness, moviemakers have a legitimately baffling problem with the nature of the war itself. In order to honestly dramatize the simple truth about this existential struggle, you have to depict right-minded Americans — some of whom may be white and male and Christian — hunting down and killing dark-skinned villains of a false and wicked creed. That’s what’s happening, on a good day anyway, so that’s what you’d have to show.

    Moviemakers are reluctant to do that because, even though it’s the truth, on screen it might appear bigoted and jingoistic. You can call that political correctness or multiculturalism gone mad — and sure, there’s a lot of that going around. But despite what you might have heard, there are sensible, patriotic people in the movie business too. And even they, I suspect, falter before the prospect of presenting such a scenario.”

    Considering the grief that the makers of “24” got for showing Muslim terrorists, the answer is obvious.

    All bad guys should be cave men in Hollywood entertainment.

    Comment by Mark in Texas — January 29, 2007 @ 7:58 am | Reply

  65. Noone has mentioned the awful celebrity-assistant ads. I hate them all.

    Apparently I’m as trapped in the 80’s as the cavemen, because I missed that detail completely.

    The only real thought I’ve had about the campaign is a racial one. The cave guys are all white and male, and seeing white men take offense at being stereotyped is key to the result. Had they used members of any group that has take offense in the past, the whole thing wouldn’t have worked.

    Comment by Larry — January 29, 2007 @ 9:03 am | Reply

  66. I think you’re missing the point of the “roast duck” comment. I’ve always taken it to mean that he thinks the GEICO rep is “roast duck” as he emphasizes the “duck” part. As in, “I’ll take the roast duck” and then, the “with mango salsa” is sort of hurredly tacked on.

    Comment by Veeshir — January 29, 2007 @ 9:12 am | Reply

  67. Check out the Geico Caveman movie on youtube. It has a Miami Vice vibe.

    Comment by paul — January 29, 2007 @ 10:18 am | Reply

  68. I agree that the caveman ads are funny. It doesn’t surprise me that ad people analyze them well beyond my level of interest. It’s cold out. Life-like, I cut and split the wood last fall. Now I keep the woodstove stoked.

    Comment by John — January 29, 2007 @ 10:34 am | Reply

  69. Back to the gecko: The poster who said the gecko is a Cockney is surely mistaken. The little feller is speaking Strine, inne?.

    Comment by Axel Kassel — January 29, 2007 @ 11:53 am | Reply

  70. I bought into the “jumping-the-shark” theory until I re-viewed the ads on YouTube. I have to say they’re all fabulous. I’m older but the high school crowd loves them too. I thought it was a stupid idea from an earlier post but the more I think about it the more I like it. Caveman vs gekko lizard. It pits two lesser evolved wannabees against each other. It also involves a very pretentious character (lizard) vs a character who’s whole style is total lack of pretension. If the Caveman takes on the lizard on Super Bowl sunday it could be comic genious

    Comment by Jerry — January 29, 2007 @ 2:00 pm | Reply

  71. The gecko is horrendous. The cavemen, fantastic. I think you are being a bit premature in your “jump the shark” prediction. True, they are getting harder to top, but I think the cavemen are a great running gag.

    Maybe in the future they can whack the @#$@# gecko with a club.

    Comment by Lizard on a Stick — January 29, 2007 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

  72. By the way, cavemen did not “outlast” the dinosaurs. Dinosaurs had been extinct for tens of millions of years before the first humans appeared, cavemen or otherwise. Humans and dinosaurs were never alive at the same time.

    Comment by Kelly Parks — January 29, 2007 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

  73. The first ad had a salesman exclaiming, “So easy a caveman can do it,” and the sound man, a caveman, dropping the mic and yelling, “NOT COOL!” He then stomps off. That was a great ad. I just love the, “NOT COOL!” My fav.

    Didn’t like the caveman party.

    Comment by Catherine — January 29, 2007 @ 3:30 pm | Reply

  74. This link will add to the discussion. Is this the shark jumping?


    Comment by Cavemen Not Cool — January 29, 2007 @ 4:15 pm | Reply

  75. This ad really is senseless! It is no an ad but an enginered compaign to enforced a very wrong and hidden ideology… Stupid!!!! I am alwayS upset when it comes up while i am watching the TV.

    Comment by The Bushman!!! — January 29, 2007 @ 9:07 pm | Reply

  76. The roast duck with mango sauce always stays with me too.

    Comment by Neo-andertal — January 29, 2007 @ 9:36 pm | Reply

  77. By the time the caveman gets to the therapist, he’s aleady developed a constituency that gets him. The therapist doesn’t, but the speaker phone schtick is not for her benefit; she’s the straight guy in this commercial. It’s for us out here who identify with him, laughing with him as he takes his schtick on the road and draws the rubes in for our amusement. By the time he gets to the therapist, he’s Borat. What’s next for him? Think,where does Borat go from here?

    Comment by Mary Caery — January 29, 2007 @ 9:47 pm | Reply

  78. Great series of ads. I don’t buy the jump the shark idea yet (and yes, “jump the shark” has) as much as the tendency of people to anticipate the jumping of the shark.

    Maybe the caveman will jump the shark on the next round but for now I think they are great ads.

    I think the key to the success of the ads is the great performance by the caveman. that guy’s reactions are priceless. And I don’t think the audience is completely against him. We understand that him being a caveman means he is by nature limited in intellect etc. but we still empathise with him.

    I could be wrong of course.

    Comment by beb — January 29, 2007 @ 11:12 pm | Reply

  79. Latest video (flat party):

    Comment by Joan — January 30, 2007 @ 6:46 am | Reply

  80. The therapist ad had something odd.

    Mr. Caveman wore a mouthpiece that caused him to garble his lines. He struggled visibly trying to get his words out. It detracted from the effectiveness of the ad.

    What’s with that?

    Comment by John J. Coupal — January 30, 2007 @ 9:49 am | Reply

  81. I hate insurance commercials but these Geico caveman ads take the pain out of watching insurance commercials.

    Comment by Eric — January 30, 2007 @ 10:23 am | Reply

  82. You have way too much time on your hands. Do you write columns for MODE magazine by any chance?

    Remind us again of the great contributions to humanity you make with your time. You certainy seem more knowledgable about MODE (whtever it is) than I am Perhaps a magazine for the humor-impaired would be of hel to you.

    Comment by Donna Diorio — January 30, 2007 @ 11:34 am | Reply

  83. “Insufferable” doesn’t adequately convey my loathing of both the Geico “Gecko” (gee, how many sleepless creative nights were spent before they arrived at THAT brilliant conception?) and the “Cavemen” series (overcooked social snark, effeminate indignation are just the beginning). Yuk. DOUBLE Yuk.

    Undoubtedly appeals only to the remaining few who still find humor in SNL.

    Now, you want truely clever?

    This is what I call amusing.

    Comment by Bingo — January 30, 2007 @ 12:26 pm | Reply

  84. You Americans are really, really weird.

    Comment by Neanda T. — January 30, 2007 @ 12:48 pm | Reply

  85. Neanda,

    Thank you.

    Comment by MarkW — January 30, 2007 @ 1:22 pm | Reply

  86. Oh come on!! The speakerphone part was genious!

    I haven’t even spent the time to figure out how to do it yet!!

    The caveman flings a load of sacrcasm at the analyst about being “smart” (as opposed to the “stupid” caveman) and then his mom calls on his cell phone which he has complete knowledge of its abilities.

    Think about the commentary here!!

    I thought it was a very subtle smack at modernity…a way of saying “how far have you really come, missy smartypants?”.

    Comment by Wayne — January 30, 2007 @ 1:58 pm | Reply

  87. I must be living right. I’ve never seen a single one of these caveman ads. Do love the gecko, though.

    Comment by Achillea — January 30, 2007 @ 2:58 pm | Reply

  88. Ron, you know, this is way too controversial. I’m sorry.

    Comment by Bill Bradley — January 30, 2007 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

  89. I love the Geico and the cavemen…they are very creative, however. the grico commercials with the old celebrities telling stories are so ridiculously stupid that I can’t imagine that they are all for the dame product

    Comment by Anonymous — January 30, 2007 @ 10:34 pm | Reply

  90. $400 million a year in ad expenditure is $400 million a year unavailable to insureds facing repair bills for their car accidents….

    Comment by Jeremy Abrams — January 31, 2007 @ 3:44 pm | Reply

  91. I would like to see the caveman on J Leno or one of the talk shows to talk about not just the commercial but the whole insult thing…like he is really insulted.

    Comment by Star — February 1, 2007 @ 6:42 pm | Reply

  92. Does anyone know who play the cavemen?

    I don’t know they actually are, but they both look a bit like Val Kilmer. Am I wrong?

    Comment by Wulf — February 1, 2007 @ 9:07 pm | Reply

  93. More on this breaking news…the GEICO caveman campaign is hitting the Internet starting with this:

    Comment by Lille — February 2, 2007 @ 12:27 am | Reply

  94. I totally took the therapist ad a different way. I thought that after he badgers the therapist about how smart she thinks she is, and his cell phone rings, he meant to say I’ll put it on silent, but got confused. I took it that he was trying to argue with her that cavemen are smart but then proved himself to be stupid by putting the phone on speaker instead of silencing it. I may be wrong though!

    Comment by MaryMargaret — September 29, 2008 @ 7:07 pm | Reply

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