Curse of the Flying Monkeys.

Once upon a time there was a young creative director who promised his client the best commercial ever made. Instead, the young creative director delivered the worst commercial ever made. His arrogance and his ignorance were his downfall. The end.

This would be an excellent place for me to end my story, especially for me. But who doesn’t enjoy a good car insurance car wreck? If you’re game, I am.

The assignment was to promote Geico’s guaranteed claim repairs. So, how did Geico do it? Could it be Geico’s excellent network of certified repair centers? Or could it be the flying enforcer monkeys from The Wizard of Oz?

I know. That was the concept I personally presented and sold to Geico. And you might find this hard to believe, but it actually goes downhill from there.

First, the lawyers rolled up their sleeves and offered to help.

Legally, we could only use enforcer monkeys if they were based on the book published in 1900. In no way could we reference the classic movie from 1939. The flying monkeys couldn’t look the same. They couldn’t fly the same. And under no circumstances could we use the flying monkeys’ theme music. (You’re hearing it in your head right now, aren’t you?)

Oh, and one other helpful idea from the lawyers. Just to be on the safe side, instead of “enforcer” monkeys could they possibly be “helpful” monkeys? You know, maybe they could fly in coffee and danish to Geico’s certified repair centers.

Once again, I know. I was there. But still I forged ahead. Making last-minute changes. Picking the wrong director. Casting the wrong actors. And hey, don’t forget the old, “We can always fix it in the edit.”

The finished spot ran for one week before Geico mercifully put it out of its misery.

From that point on as Creative Director on Geico, “Flying Monkeys” became an adjective for ideas that sucked. I guess I should consider myself lucky. It could just as easily have been me. “Wow, that piece of shit was a real Bassett.”

So, what can you learn from my mistakes?

Don’t make promises you can’t keep?

Don’t present ideas you should have killed in the first place?

Lawyers are better litigators than they are creators?

Don’t pick the wrong director?

The answer is none of the above. The answer is, as Creative Director, you are responsible for the creative product. You can make all the excuses you want. You can do all the finger pointing you want. But in the end, it’s your ass and your reputation on the line. Own it. Learn from it. And move on.

Yeah, I guess I’m ready now. The end.

Published by bassetts49

50 years in advertising, 20 years as the creative lead on Geico. A life in creative thinking.

2 thoughts on “Curse of the Flying Monkeys.

  1. Love the honesty.

    We met face to face once. The meeting was in your office. I had imagined a circus atmosphere. Freakishly beautiful and odd animal parts suspended in jars of backlit formaldehyde. Colorful illustrations and artifacts of mayhem from around the globe. I remember it being utilitarian. Minimalism taken to the next level. If I recall, there was one thing on your wall. A receipt. I was struck by your humbleness. It gave me a deeper appreciation for your work. If the room was not you office and in fact, an abandoned office or quiet room, I don’t want to hear it. That truth would rob me of the memory.


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