Will the Cavemen's Evolution Boost Geico?
By Matthew Boyle

(FORTUNE Magazine) – The news that ABC will produce a half-hour comedy pilot featuring the cavemen made famous in ads for Geico was a nice boost for the long-suffering Neanderthals. But opinions are mixed on how it will benefit the car-insurance giant owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

Some marketing gurus say it's a no-lose situation. If the show (tentatively titled Cavemen) takes off--a long shot, since 90% of pilots never even get picked up--Geico obviously benefits from having its pitchmen on a hit sitcom (a kind of syndicated product placement). And if it bombs, who will remember? "Even if it gets pulled, they'll get lots of publicity, and that looks to be a worthwhile goal in itself," says Advertising Age editor Jonah Bloom.

Others think it could backfire. "It is a very dangerous idea," says Tuck School professor Paul Argenti, a corporate-reputation expert. "The show is likely to fail, and as a result the brand equity they have built up gets knocked down." Geico's VP of marketing, Ted Ward, sees it as a "great opportunity." Geico will have no creative input in the show, but may get a royalty.

One potential viewer who'll be tracking the show's progress closely is Warren Buffett. The Berkshire chief has ABC connections, including former Capital Cities head Tom Murphy, who's on Berkshire's board. Buffett is also said to be a big fan of the cavemen. He'll be an even bigger fan if their sitcom can somehow persuade more car owners to shift their policies to Geico.