February 7, 2007
Caveman's Crib: Developing Branded Entertainment for an Insurance Company

I've never seen a site quite like this one. If you haven't checked out Caveman's Crib, it's definitely worth a look, especially if you've enjoyed the recent Geico advertising campaign.

It's a visual indication of one of the oddest success stories in recent television advertising. It's the story of the Geico plans for a one-time commercial that has turned into a continued advertising campaign for the company that has now developed into transmedia extensons taking on a life of their own.

It all reminds me of an argument we've had about the 30-second spot for a long time and its assured demise. That hyperbole, some of which I've taken part in myself, exists alongside ad campaigns that are more vibrant than ever. But it emphasizes a message--people are still interested in commercials that are exceptionally compelling, that build a brand-based entertainment property, in this case, that entertains, that you stop your DVR for.

Insurance has always been a particularly tough nut to crack when it comes to creativity. The service companies like Geico provides is, first of all, one that most Americans despise having to pay and that many feel is a leach on their wallets, sucking money for no return. After all, the only way your car insurance is of great use to you is if you have a lot of wrecks...and if you have a lot of wrecks, no one wants to give you insurance.

Nonetheless, Geico has built its brand by emphasizing its low prices while creating ads that, while they don't completely take the focus away from the insurance, are entertainment-based rather than service-based.

Caveman's Crib may be the epitome of this. You can see what the caveman is looking at on his Apple laptop or watching on his high-def TV, as he guides you throughout his "crib."

The Geico commercials are getting hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, again an example of an ad campaign that draws attention as a pull media product rather than a push media product. People find it compelling enough that they are spreading the word themselves, building up a response that literally has given the caveman a life of his own.

And, to their credit, Geico has gone with it, done all they could to facilitate the character. Some may argue that there's no proof that it's going to connect people to the car insurance and making them laugh isn't really what advertising is intended to do in the long run. But people have positive connotations for a car insurance group, which may be a first in itself.

The Geico campaign feels like it was inspired by the old SNL skit Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman...Your world frightens and confuses me...Sometimes when I get a message on my fax machine, I wonder, 'Did little demons get inside and type it?' I don't know. My primitive mind can't grasp these concepts. But there is one thing I do know--when a man like my client slips and falls on a sidewalk in front of a public library, then he is entitled to no less than two million in compensatory damages, and two million in punitive damages."

And, as one last aside, I have to admit enjoying the ad campaign for Safe Auto as well, the insurance company which promotes itself as offering "minimum coverage." The key is that, since all drivers are required to have auto insurance, Safe Auto provides you the cheapest coverage possible, with all its rhetoric emphasizing "meeting the law's requirements," making the name "safe auto" perhaps an odd name for a company that barely mentions the protection and assurance they offer their drivers.

Their commercials all play with the idea of "minimum coverage," including a traffic reporter who will only say about rush time traffic, "Crappy," and an ad on their Web site featuring a celebrity endorsement from Adam and Eve, wearing nothing but leaves. The tag line is always, "For minimum coverage you can actually use..."

Thanks to Grant McCracken for linking me to the Caveman's Crib Web site.



At Caveman's Crib, I was perusing his magazines. The issue of LINKED (on the coffee table by the laptop) focuses on iheartcavemen.com, a fictional dating site.

Despite the initial "wow" factor of the experience and the different permutations it offers, I was disappointed to find that iheartcavemen.com points to the same site. Have my expectations as a consumer of uniqueness been raised too high??


I really don't think that your expectations have raised too high. I don't know what the point would be to insert a detail like that and then not follow through with it. I think that it's a great idea, but it needs to be fully executed if it's going to be attempted at all because they are setting that bar themselves with the initial "crib" site.

Thanks for the detail, by the way. Didn't know anything about the fictional dating site that isn't.


No problem. Being able to turn the pages of the magazines was a true surprise.

The functioning answering machine, functioning blog on the laptop, functioning magnetic poetry set in caveman language on the fridge, the doodles scribbled inside his books, and the variety of random programs and commercials that the TV would display were all fantastic touches.

Turning on the microwave and "accidentally" triggering the circuit breakers was outstanding. The level of detail is just so overwhelmingly rich.

With the different grouchy replies from the caveman, which seem dependent on the sequence of visitor-initiated events, I was indeed disappointed with the dating site that never was...


I agree completely, Andy, that, despite this criticism, the site is really well-done and a fun extension of the caveman character. Will it make anyone buy insurance? That can be debated. But it's certainly developed Geico into the only brand of insurance that is "hip."