March 8, 2007

Advertainment Unbound

The Wall Street Journal published this article yesterday about the blurring lines between advertising and entertainment, and the plans for a new TV show starring the caveman from the Geico commercials.

Changes in advertising are not new. We’re used to “commercial breaks in TV shows” model, but over the years and generations we’ve seen many others. Stars have endorsed products on their own TV and radio shows, “product placements” have annoyed and amused us in movies, and the football disinterested have looked forward to ads during the Super Bowl, just to name a few examples.

New media brings new examples. Subservient Chicken and other viral advertising come to mind. I can’t say that the new Burger King character has made me want to eat hamburgers, but there have been some successes in getting your customers to spread the word for you.

Blogs give an opportunity to get the word out at the grassroots level. I have used my blog to spread the word about products I like, which is a sort of unpaid advertising.

I’m someone who often finds advertising to be a negative force. I used to read Adbusters and even won a subscription from them for submitting a website parody once. Even so, I’m not philosophically against advertising or marketing, I just think that it unduly invades our consciousness. At home, we use it as a teaching opportunity to practice critical thinking skills. You can turn advertising into a positive force. As with many aspects of life, when you reflect on it and discuss it, you change the impact it has.

Speaking of impact, entertainment, advertising and characters, seeing the Caveman and “The King” together on the screen made me think of a new idea for advertainment. Make corporate mascots live together in an apartment and turn it into a series a la “The Real World.”

On second thought, it’s just not edgy enough. Solution? Corporate Mascot Cage-Fighing. The appeal is obvious.

Posted by James at March 8, 2007 11:55 AM
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I don't think the caveman show is related to GEICO in any way other than it's the same character. But he's not going to be pitching auto insurance.

It's only a pilot, and most pilots don't get picked up. Even when they do, the show usually gets cancelled before long.

Anyway, I like the caveman. I'd like to see a show with him and the "I'm a Mac" and "I'm a PC" guys.

But if somebody wants to beat up The King, I'd get on board with that. He's creepy. I'd like to see Burger Chef & Jeff come back from the grave to fight The King and Ronald McDonald.

Posted by: Julie at March 8, 2007 1:15 PM

It is related in that Geico continues to own the character and can still use it in commercials.

I liked the caveman at first, but it's become a really tiresome joke. I think you comments about pilots not being picked up will definitely apply here.

In other news, McDonalds is coming out with a Third Pounder. Biggering and biggering.

Posted by: James at March 8, 2007 1:34 PM

FYI - You can get free access to that Wall Street Journal article with a netpass from: - click the wsj logo

This was on CNBC this AM.

Posted by: Geico Caveman at March 8, 2007 1:41 PM

Glad to know the brilliant chefs at McD's are still coming up with original ideas to bolster the company's claim that its offerings have a place in a healthy diet. Hah. Meanwhile, they still use trans fats to cook their fries.

Posted by: Julie at March 8, 2007 1:53 PM

BTW - I have the film version of "Fast Food Nation" from Netflix. I am really wondering how they turned that book into a movie.

Posted by: James at March 8, 2007 1:57 PM

Silly McDonald's. 113 grams sounds so much smaller than a quarter pound, if you can get past the drug connotation.

Posted by: Mike at March 8, 2007 3:04 PM

The Burger King may be getting a movie - or so says some link on Digg

Posted by: Derek at March 8, 2007 6:10 PM

Having grown up watching Transformers and G.I. Joe cartoons, I see nothing new about a half-hour show being little more than a product advertisement.

Though as others have said, I think that this is more a case of someone thinking the ads are funny and creative and it would be great to base a show on the premise (sophisticated cave-men living in the modern world) rather than being a pimpfest like the Mattel-Mars Bar Chocobot Hour. Most likely there would be little to no connection with Geico aside from the insurance company actually advertising on the show like any other sponsor.

Posted by: DG at March 9, 2007 9:56 AM

I forget whether I posted this in a comment before; if so, please forgive the repetition. I remember when 7-11 first introduced the Slurpee®. The "small" was 10 oz, and the "large" was 12. Those were soon to be upgraded to 12 and 16. A couple of years ago, when "Shrek 2" came out, the 7-11 in Poughkeepsie had a banner out front that said, "Get the 44 ounce Shrek-blue Slurpee!"

44 ounces? OMFG, that's almost four large Slurpees as they were originally done, and they expect one kid to slurp® that in a single sitting/standing/running/whatevering. Yep, bigger and bigger.

OTOH, McDonald's is not the leader in the Big Burger Bakeoff — 1/3 pound is only 5.3(33333) oz, and your average burger at the "classier" joints (Ruby Tuesday, Chili's, Applebee's, TGIF, and so on) is 8 oz (and 10 isn't uncommon now).

Ten years ago or so, some of the guys I worked with at the time spent a month or so in the Dallas area (IBM used to have a software development group in Grapevine, a Dallas suburb), and came back with a report of a Ft Worth steak house where they got 34-oz steaks. "We could have gotten the 50-oz steak, but we didn't." I can't imagine!


We seemed to have digressed from the "caveman" thing. Maybe the caveman would have eaten the 50-oz steak, and then stopped at 7-11 for a 44-oz Slurpee. There, that brought it right back on topic, didn't it?

Posted by: Barry Leiba at March 9, 2007 9:57 AM

I hope people no longer wonder why there is an obesity epidemic in this country. Here's another comment on current soft drink sizes from a recent Boston Globe article about the high cost of cinema concessions:

Buying a small popcorn and a soda at a movie theater is becoming a big investment. At the 13-screen theater owned by Regal Entertainment Group in the Fenway, the price of a small popcorn and a small soft drink will set you back $10, the same as an adult ticket.

Granted, the small popcorn is 85 ounces, nearly twice as big as the small at other theaters, and a small soft drink is 32 ounces, the equivalent of roughly half of a 2-liter bottle, but it's still a lot to pay for modest fare.

Posted by: Mike at March 9, 2007 11:09 AM
Most likely there would be little to no connection with Geico aside from the insurance company actually advertising on the show like any other sponsor.

In the same way licensed Mickey Mouse T-shirts don't have have much of a connection to Disney.

Posted by: James at March 9, 2007 11:38 AM

I don't think there's any confusion that Mickey Mouse represents Disney, nor that a gecko represents GEICO. However, until I read an article about the GEICO cavemen, I have to admit that I was barely aware that the cavemen were even advertising car insurance - all I remembered was that they didn't like being considered dumb. Even after I did realize what they were selling, I kept thinking it was for Progressive and not GEICO. So... maybe not the best mascots.

(I have a similar problem with the car insurance commercials with Leslie Nielsen, Little Richard, etc.... can never remember whether they're GEICO or Progressive.)

Posted by: Julie at March 9, 2007 12:09 PM

My point in posting this was to show the continuing crossover between advertising and entertainment.

Whether or not a particular mascot and its associated product/company sticks in your mind, is a detail. But that association and the possibility it promises is the theory behind fiercely protecting your symbol and making it ubiquitous.

Advertisers are clearly putting a lot of effort into trying to make their impression. Today's caveman may be tomorrow's Mickey Mouse.

Posted by: James at March 9, 2007 3:09 PM

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