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Gardner Nelson Loves Roombas

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NEW YORK Thirty-five years ago, Americans showed their love for house-bots like Robot from Lost in Space and The Jetsons' Rosie by toting lunchboxes sporting their images. Now, three years after iRobot brought AI helpers into American homes, people proclaim, "I love Robots" in a Roomba campaign from Gardner Nelson & Partners.

The 30- and 60-second spots for the vacuuming robot, which broke yesterday, show self-described "neat-freak" and "obsessive compulsive" owners singing the praises of their cleaning devices. "The Roomba is more intelligent than some people I know," claims one woman. "I call my Roomba 'The little guy,' " one man says. Another extols, "The Roomba finds more dirt than humanly possible." Each concludes by declaring, "I love Robots."

"The conventional definition of a vacuum is about strength and power and suction," said agency creative chief Tom Nelson. "In a head-to-head contest, framed on conventional vacuums' terms, we lose."

So the New York agency sought to emphasize the "great service," as one owner puts it, in freeing up homeowners time. "One of the things we were struck by, in getting to know this client, was that people really get into these robots and it really, really changes their lives," Nelson said.

That's when the real-owner approach was born, Nelson said. It is the first work for iRobot by the independent shop, which won the account in March.

Print ads, which break in November issues of Martha Stewart Living, O Magazine and Real Simple, feature quotes from the owners and stylized action shots of the Roomba. TV will run on national cable networks and in heavy spot rotation in 11 markets, including New York, San Francisco and Tampa, Fla.

Since introducing the Roomba in 2002, iRobot has sold 1.2 million units. It plans to launch the Scooba, a hard floor washing machine, next month. The Scooba will retail for $399.99, and its ads will feature real people complaining about how much they detest washing their floors.

Campaign spending was not disclosed. Ionic in New York handles media duties.