|Is the Geico Caveman, aka Joe Dyton, going to follow in the footsteps of Baby Bob?
These days the caveman is breaking from the confines of the 30-second spot toward longer formats -- the latest a still-in-negotiation deal to star in a half-hour comedy show produced by ABC. The potential series, being worked out with Geico's shop, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, would focus on three cavemen who have found themselves repeatedly humiliated by Geico's tagline: "So easy a caveman can do it."
They've been branching out for a while. In January, Joe Dyton -- so named by Geico's in-house group, which created the website -- opened up his apartment to the world at CavemansCrib.com. On Super Bowl Sunday he played golf with CBS's lead NFL analyst, Phil Simms. Weeks later he was walking the red carpet at the Oscars and interviewing the likes of Jon Voight and Richard Dreyfus for CelebTV.com at an after-party.
Of course, he had a little help. When a trailer for a fake caveman movie appeared on YouTube a few months ago, Martin Senior VP-Creative Director Steve Bassett realized a sitcom was a possibility. "The story arc of the caveman [commercials] was already episodic in nature," he said. "There is character development and a storyline."
After all, this isn't the first time an advertising character has made the transition to the small screen. In 2002 CBS aired a sitcom based on Baby Bob, the precocious talking infant who shilled for dot-coms in the late '90s. After nine episodes, the series was killed, though Baby Bob did manage a comeback as the Quizno's spokes-baby in 2005.
"These particular cavemen are so interesting because they are so angry," said Robert Thompson, professor at Syracuse University and head of the school's Center for the Study of Popular Television. "It's a way we can deal with those issues that have come with raised consciousness and have merged into political correctness, and you can do it in a way that is safe because you're making fun of cavemen and not some other group."
So is this the perfect juncture of Cro-Magnon and Vine? "The upside," said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, "is that the character gets well-known and resonates more." The downside: "You don't want to push [an advertising icon] too much at the public. ... You definitely don't want the sitcom to read like an extended commercial."
OK, since we knew you would ask, Mr. Bassett admits the gecko is beginning to get a bit "ticked off" by the caveman's prospects -- though if Joe Dyton leaps successfully to sitcom, the lovable lizard once again would be Geico's one and only icon.