Geico's Caveman Returns—and There's a Super Bowl Angle
Which brand will take home the 2024 Super Clio for the best Super Bowl commercial? We'll find out on Feb. 12.
What's the Geico caveman been up to lately? How would the prehistoric pitchman feel about a return to commercials after spending most of the past decade out of the public eye? What's his wife's take on such a development? Wait, he got married?
The insurance provider answers these and other questions of dubious import, resurrecting the hairy hypester in a campaign that launches during NBC's Sunday Night Football.
The character was a fixture during the aughts, taking umbrage at the tagline: "Geico's So Easy, a Caveman Can Do It."
He's still brooding and pouty, as we learn in a 2-minute film that finds him waking from a nightmare to question his place in the universe. Or adland, at the very least.
Still smarting from that failed sitcom, perhaps? Dude bristles at everything.
World War Seven's David Shafei directed, with more ads dropping soon. The Martin Agency, which developed the campaign, promises, "Geico and the caveman will be doing something around the Super Bowl," but didn't elaborate.
So, why's the nerdy Neanderthal—or Cro-Magnon, whatever—staging a comeback?
"The simplest answer is, the caveman was and forever will be Geico's original avatar for 'ease,'" in terms of products and services, says Graham Unterberger, creative director at Martin. "The long answer is a lot longer. Much of which will be revealed in the coming months."
Fair enough. But the caveman was kind of polarizing. His revival might indeed feel like more of a nightmare than a dream come true for some. Was that a factor in campaign planning?
"He is an anti-spokesperson by design and not supposed to be as universally likable as, say, the Geico gecko," says agency GCD Need Williams. "His rough edges make him stand out, but with too much exposure, those edges might get a little grating. When a character turns to caricature, it can also become less insightful and less comedically satisfying."
He seems more angsty than ever. Even, dare we say it, soulful these days. Perhaps that was by design?
"In his time away, he and his life have evolved," says Martin CD Dustin Todd. "He no longer lives with his bros. He rehabilitates rescue dogs. And years of therapy have placated any aggressive tendencies into just passive-aggressiveness."
As for highlights from the shoot, Unterberger recalls:
- "The caveman stayed in character for the whole 14-hour day. It's unclear if that was his method acting or just a by-product of being plastered in prosthetics."
- "The set was so small that every time caveman stormed out of a room mid-take, he walked directly into Video Village. It was equal parts exciting and intimidating."
- "[We loved] the signature hair flip, which we didn't realize was a Caveman staple until our actor pointed out that it was his calling card from the old campaign. Once you see it you'll never forget it."
Jeff Daniel Phillips, who also played one of the cavemen in the earlier campaign, takes the title role. Annie Sertich stars as Tina, his long-suffering wife.
"The name 'Tina' was mentioned as a love interest in an original caveman ad, but we never saw her," says Dodd. "It felt like a fun detail and narrative opportunity, to imagine what that relationship might look like almost 20 years later and bring Tina front and center."
In a broader sense, the primitive approach fits into the nostalgia theme worked so hard by brands of all kinds this year. Yes, callbacks are always in vogue. But we've seen an abundance of late.
Usually, stars and tunes of yore come to the fore in commercials. Occasionally, though, brands perform a kind of commercial archeology, shifting through the sands to dust off well-remembered themes and memes.
That's the deal for Geico's caveman. Unshaven and unashamed—with a built-in buzz factor—he seeks to become the fuzzy face of a new generation.