This can be risky: Mattel last month sued Nissan over the 1996 "Toys" spot featuring Barbie and G.I. Joe look-alikes. Barbie's lawyers complain the spot encroaches on Mattel trademarks.
Qualcomm features a Barbie-ish babe in mobile phone ads. But lest Mattel tell Qualcomm to knock it off, a disclaimer lists the name and phone number of the phone doll's maker-Lucky Industrial Holdings.
The Nissan spot, created by TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif., at least didn't have the untimely ending of a "Toys" parody by an Acura dealers group. Babe and beau ended up as roadkill under the wheel of an Integra in that spot.
Acura dealers aren't alone with their killer instincts. Ultralife Batteries terminated the Energizer bunny and Duracell's grandma in a spot saying its lithium batteries last up to five times longer than rivals' alkalines.
Advanced Micro Devices, knocked over a couple of Intel's BunnyPeople guards in a spot where a secret agent gets away from an evil empire bent on world domination. Ann Lewnes, Intel's director of worldwide advertising, seems more amused than upset at AMD's effort to tweak the big chipmaker.
Some ads are more gentle in milking well-known ad icons and themes. "Got silk?" asked an ad for Silkcorp, a silk plant marketer. El Pollo Loco good-naturedly poked fun at KFC's Col. Sanders, Jack in the Box's Jack and other fast-food icons in recent spots. Nicer, to be sure, than the 1980 commercial where Jack in