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Plastic Fantastic

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Something for creatives to consider when the next Screen Actors Guild strike looms: Not since Andrew McCarthy took a roll in the junior's department with a less-than-human Kim Cattrall in 1987's Mannequin have the plastic dolls had such a high profile. In Merkley Newman Harty & Partners' Mercedes-Benz spot for its new CLK model, which broke last month, a bevy of mannequins crowd inquisitively around the car in a showroom. An ad from Leo Burnett in Chicago for Dryel, which broke last summer, shows a mannequin taking a trip to the laundromat. Then there was last year's ad from Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York for Axe deodorant, in which a woman becomes helplessly attracted to a male mannequin after she sprays the product on him.

The trend kicked off with a Black Rocket Euro RSCG spot that launched Lucky magazine in 2001 and featured a woman whose best friend is a mannequin.

So what's with the plastic fascination?

In the Mercedes ad, mannequins represent the epitome of beauty and fashion, says Merkley producer Rachel Novak.

"Our creative strategy was, 'It's really so easy, a dummy could use it,' " explains Leo Burnett cd Kevin Moriarty of the dry-cleaning substitute. Of the mannequin, he notes, "She didn't throw any temper tantrums. But there were times you wish you could get her to do things different facially."

As for the doll in the Dryel ad, Moriarty swears he spotted her again in the Mercedes spot. "Maybe we gave this mannequin her start," he says.