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Trane Takes the Altman Approach

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Director Robert Altman has cast a sardonic eye on the social milieu in films such as Gosford Park, M*A*S*H, and Short Cuts. Now, he is giving a similar treatment to an effort breaking tomorrow for air- conditioning and furnace systems from American-Standard Trane.

Two commercials, by Foote, Cone & Belding in New York, feature women speaking effusively about the nitty-gritty technical qualities of the brand. One 30-second spot shows three women discussing the Trane XLi cooling system behind the guest of honor at a bridal shower.

"Ooh, how rugged," the brunette coos. "Tell me about it," the blonde continues. "Climate-tough compressor. Patented spine fin coil." A third woman says, "It might outlast Evelyn's third marriage," to which an astonished Evelyn asks, "What?" In a quick recovery, the blonde says, "Next, we buy you a baby carriage."

FCB cds Terri Meyer and Sandy Greenberg worked on the ads, FCB's first since winning the estimated $35 million account last summer. Trane's media spending in 2002 was about $5 million, according to CMR.

Greenberg said Altman's only suggestion was to make the dialogue more technical for comic effect.

"You're not trying to disguise what you do," said Altman, who worked with production company Villains in Los Angeles and has also directed spots for E! Entertainment Television last year. "What some people might think is a deterrent [technical language] can be … an asset."

The ads retain the "It's hard to stop a Trane" tagline, created by The Richards Group in Dallas in 1992.