Energizer Ads Keep The Bunny In The Pink
Agency: TBWA/Chiat/Day Client: Eveready Battery Co.
Creative Directors: Chuck Bennett, Clay Williams
Copywriter: Chris Schifando Art Director: Bernie O'Dowd
Production co.: Partizan director: Traktor
TBWA/Chiat/Day has been both blessed and cursed by the success of its long-running Energizer Bunny campaign for Eveready Battery Co. While the bunny ranks as one of the most enduring characters in advertising, the challenge for creative staffers is to find a way to keep the near decade-old campaign fresh.
As one executive at the Playa del Rey agency notes: "With the bunny, you have to start with a pink slate, not a clean one."
Now, a product intro has given the agency the opportunity to take a different creative approach. Unlike recent efforts, which wryly commented on the bunny's status as a cultural icon but offered it little screen time, the latest execution brings the character back to center stage. Launching the new Energizer Advanced Formula battery, the campaign is being supported by about $50 million in U.S. ad spending.
"We are getting back to what the bunny is all about," says TBWA/Chiat/Day creative director Chuck Bennett, who is overseeing the creative effort with his partner Clay Williams. "The bunny developed such a cult following that it overpowered the original idea--that it was powered by a battery."
The new spots humorously take viewers behind-the-scenes for the first time, to show how and why the bunny keeps going and going. Thanks to the new battery, the rabbit is even faster and more powerful than before.
Viewers are introduced to the bunny's pit crew, a team of technicians charged with keeping its vital accessories, such as sunglasses and flip-flops. "The idea is, there's been this invisible team for years behind the bunny," says Mark Larsen, category manager of communications for Energizer, who describes the campaign as "the biggest product launch in our company's history."
The product news allows the agency to clearly "make the connection between the bunny and the battery," while moving beyond the typical product-claim ads that are difficult to prove, notes Bennett.
The filming, music and editing of the TV spots take a Tarantinoesque approach. The first two teasers, titled "The Chief" and "Steve and Gus," introduce members of the pit crew, including the chief, the rookie and Gus, a grizzled veteran who only wants to retire. In one, a naive young crew member, Steve, wonders aloud about putting a stronger battery into something that's never stopped before. Suddenly, the spot cuts to the title, "The Rookie," in a style similar to a '70s private-eye show.
"Kind of messes with your head, don't it?" says Gus to his befuddled companion. The spot ends with the line, "The Bunny Crew. Coming 10/15/98."
The launch spot shows the bunny pulling into the pit area, where his crew installs the new battery and watches him roar off into the distance. "Welcome to the big leagues, kid," says Gus to Steve. Future ads, including one in production called "Hot Pursuit," will follow the trials and tribulations of the crew as it tries to keep up with the bunny.
Since focus-group research shows women like the bunny character more than men, the theme of the campaign is no coincidence. "We've always appealed to women, but this will appeal to guys, too," says Bennett. "It's got a Nascar auto-racing feel to it."