Saturday, October 4, 2008

How To Beat A Caveman Over The Head With A Stick

Advertising is used to build awareness and persuade beliefs about a brand. And to do that effectively requires ideas. More specifically, it requires great ideas.

In writing this column, I tried to think of one campaign that I’ve heard people talk about the most in recent years. And the campaign that came to mind first was the Geico cavemen, created by The Martin Agency.

Say what you want, but people do remember the Geico cavemen and they associate them with the Geico brand.

In just four short years, the Geico caveman campaign has become deeply embedded in the collective conscious. Google “Geico cavemen” and you’ll get 181,000 results. The idea of these sensitive, intellectual, cardigan-wearing Neanderthals who take offense at Geico’s “So easy a caveman could do it,” campaign theme is pretty funny. And it’s highly disruptive. You can’t help but notice and remember the ads.

The cumulative impact of the campaign in terms of brand awareness is staggering. Sources estimate that nearly half of all consumers shopping for auto insurance now get quotes from Geico. And Geico sales have increased from $2.8 billion in 1998 to over $11 billion today. Of course, that’s helped by Geico’s ever-growing domestic media spending which topped $500 million last year alone.

See how the Geico caveman has evolved.

But the media spending has created a fan base for the cavemen. A Geico branded microsite launched in 2007 centered around the Caveman’s Crib called has attracted over 4.5 million viewers in its first year.

All of which illustrates my point. The power of a great idea. Especially an idea that’s as disruptive as a caveman put into a modern day environment. It’s like walking into a formal dinner party wearing a Halloween costume. People will take notice.

As advertising professionals, our job is to create and execute great ideas. That means ideas that will get our clients' brands noticed and remembered.

It takes time. It takes talent. It takes money. But in the end, great ideas have a great value to clients. A great idea can result in higher brand awareness with less money spent.

With the challenges we have in this business of hanging on to clients, a great idea can be the one thing that sets an agency apart from all the competitors lined up at the client’s door for business.

As for the cavemen, you’ll likely recall that their popularity even led to a TV sitcom in 2007 based on the characters. The show however was cancelled after 6 episodes, partly due to the writer’s strike, but perhaps more largely due to poor execution.

Which brings me back to the power of a great idea. The idea is the first half. But execution is the second half. A great idea with poor execution isn’t any better than a bad idea. Even a caveman understands that.

--Kevin McIntosh

Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at