10 Years Ago Today: The Debut of the Best TV Commercial of All Time

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by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck

in Television

It started in 2004 with a simple but rattled “NOT COOL!” spoken by an agitated post-modern neanderthal boom operator. Auto insurance company GEICO rolled out the first of 21 (TWENTY ONE!) intentionally insensitive television ads featuring increasingly frustrated cavemen living with contemporary prejudice.

By 2006, the GEICO cavemen were almost everywhere (the campaign’s crest and inevitable decline began in 2007, but we’ll get to that later). The ads now surfacing were follow ups to the original three, so viewer familiarity with the campaign was crucial to being “in on the joke”. With this came the debut of the best television commercial of all time, the fourth ad in the GEICO cavemen campaign. The simple, effective and perfect, AIRPORT:

It’s almost laughable how profound an impact this 32 second television commercial had on my life. The year this ad came out, I dressed as the GEICO caveman for Halloween (specifically THIS cavemen, in his airport attire). I downloaded Royksopp’s Remind Me (the track featured in this ad) and made my roommates listen to it way too much. I grew a beard. I changed my fantasy baseball team name to “Roast Duck with the Mango Salsa” (a callback to the third GEICO caveman spot). I changed my car insurance back to GEICO (years earlier I had been a GEICO customer but switched to a competitor that, in retrospect, had an egregious lack of cavemen and nordic synth pop in their marketing portfolio).

The song is indescribably crucial to the ad’s potency- “and everywhere I go, there’s always something to remind me” plays as the caveman spots the offensive and pervasive billboard. I now travel once or twice a month, and to this day I never step on an airport moving walkway without playing this ad in my head and imagining myself as the exasperated caveman (seriously, he’s just SO over it, and it’s incredible).

By 2007 ABC had announced a sitcom based on the GEICO cavemen (featuring a young Nick Kroll in heavy prosthetics as one of the lead characters!) for their fall slate. There were t-shirts, radio ads, even bumper stickers. The GEICO cavemen were now everywhere, but were at the tail end of one of the most brilliant and advanced television ad campaigns of all time.

geico cavemen sitcom

The sitcom debuted in October 2007, and was as dreadful as we all expected, but the airport ad and its close brethren had built enough equity with me that I gave the show as much of a chance as anyone. As ill-conceived as it was, representing the embodiment of “taking things too far” (a concept I will always blindly defend), ten years later it doesn’t dim the shine of the best television commercial of all time.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

@eclectik June 30, 2016 at 9:39 am
Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck June 30, 2016 at 9:57 am

That one’s pretty darn good too

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Legendary Tom Brooks July 1, 2016 at 4:55 am

Simple, yet effective. I had to go back to YouTube and watch all of the commercials. Great stuff!

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