"Tiny House," the Geico spot for a fake reality series, has been hailed as the funniest ad on television. The commercial mimics TV's reality genre, seemingly promoting a non-existent show about newlyweds living in a house so small they can't stand up straight.Then there's the Cockney talking gecko who dispenses reptilian wisdom in a series of Geico advertisements. And who could forget the Geico ads with Charo prattling on in a very loose interpretation of a stone-faced policyholder's comments on his experience with a claim?
Still, of all the ads financed by an annual budget that reputedly exceeded half of a billion dollars last year, the caveman series may touch the most nerves in the body of American culture. The ads trace the bitter misadventures of cavemen who somehow survived to the present day and now lead middle-class American lives, replete with therapists, airport people movers and parties on condo terraces.
What cultural nerves do they strike? Just about every critic refers to the cavemen as "metrosexual." Political correctness is at issue. And like a Shakespearian play, the caveman tableau appears broad enough to support nearly any interpretation-just take a look at the blogs.
However one takes the joke, most would agree the ads-within-the-ads expose the cavemen to discrimination at the hands of homo sapiens.
Many credit the cavemen with built-in satirical power. Anything they do qualifies as a burlesque of contemporary pursuits and mores. And for those who can't get enough of that kind of humor, ABC is even considering a Caveman series. In the meantime, Geico has been happy to put technology in service of keeping the cavemen in the limelight.
A Web site called cavemanscrib.com offers a tour of a caveman's thoroughly contemporary digs. The premise is that the visitor has shown up early for a party and is left to entertain himself or herself while the caveman showers and dresses down the hall.
The highly interactive site beckons the visitor into the living room, where one can select the background music on a sound system, turn on a flat-screen television that plays Geico commercials, page through magazines with caveman-in-contemporary-society articles, and read caveman-vs.-Geico e-mail messages and blogs on a laptop.
The interaction continues as the visitor "walks" to the kitchen, bedroom or bath. As the visitor rifles through personal effects, the caveman's reactions vary from visit to visit, making each trip a little different from others.
At cavemanscrib.com, Geico has pressed technology into the service of entertainment, which in turn serves the interests of marketing, which, finally, helps achieve the business goal of selling more insurance policies. Geico has come a long way from the attitude of "technology for its own sake" that prevailed in so many insurance IT departments not so long ago.
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