From 30 Seconds To 30 Minutes

The line between advertising and content becomes thinner by the day. Here’s today’s example from Variety.

Winner for most unusual piece of development this pilot season goes to ABC, which has turned a series of quirky Geico commercials into an actual half-hour comedy project.
“Cavemen” will revolve around three pre-historic men who must battle prejudice as they attempt to live as normal thirtysomethings in modern Atlanta.
Project, from ABC TV Studio, is penned by Joe Lawson, an advertising copywriter who was behind the “Caveman” ads — as well as other Geico commercials.

Banterist interviewd Lawson in 2005. Here’s something he said, “Every once in a while, if you are lucky, you catch the tail of an opportunity and put something on TV that doesn’t annoy people, but most of the time 99% of us are producing crap.”
[via American Copywriter]

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Brilliant! When you are lucky enough to connect with an audience, leverage the property across as many cultural platforms as possible.

  2. Carl LaFong says:

    Depressing is more like it.
    Look, I like the cavemen, too — in increments of 30 seconds.
    Just because ads can be entertaining doesn’t make them entertainment.

  3. I think it’s a great move. These writing in these spots are better than half the shitcoms out there.

  4. (Meant, ‘the writing’)

  5. Helfman says:

    Depressing? I think that’s a little strong. There are maybe 3 good sitcoms out there now – tops. I remember when there were more than that on Thursday night alone. I’d be depressed if they weren’t trying everything and anything. I say they give it a shot.
    And I agree…just because ads can be entertaining doesn’t make them entertainment…but the flipside is that just because it’s an ad doesn’t mean it CAN’T be entertainment. It will either work, or it won’t, and I think its origin has nothing to do with it.

  6. Carl LaFong says:

    You may be right, Helfman. Pehraps “depressing” is too harsh a word.
    After all, if the show turns out to be vastly entertaining and enormously successful, will it matter that it began life as a commercial? Probably not.
    And yet. . .
    Remember the last TV show inspired by an ad campaign? The words “Baby Bob” can still strike fear into the heart of even the sturdiest soul lo these many years later.
    MTLB is right when he (she?) says that the writing in the Geico cavemen commercials is “better than half the shitcoms out there.”
    But maybe that’s because they are 30-second commercials, not 30-minute episodes that have to be ground out week after week.
    If you pared down any sitcom, odds are you could probably find 30 seconds worth of laughs. Well, except for “According to Jim.”
    The conceit of cavemen interacting with the modern world is a cute one. But stretched out to half an hour over the course of an entire season?
    At best there’s enough material there for a recurring skit on some late-night comedy show.
    Which, as fans of SNL’s “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” will tell you, has already been done.
    I agree that the networks should try “everything and anything.” But I’d argue that means they should be taking more risks with more daring material rather than taking the lazy route by riding the coattails of a popular commercial campaign.
    Come to think of it, maybe “depressing” isn’t too strong a word after all.

  7. Derrick says: