Energizer 'fraud' keeps going

By Published on .

Marketer: Energizer Co.
Agency: TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif.
Ad review rating: Three and a half stars

We remember where we were when JFK was assassinated. We remember where we were when the space shuttle blew up. And we remember where we were when we saw our first Nasatene commercial.

Nasatene (with Mucanol) wasn't a real nose spray, of course. It was a fake product with a dead-on-perfect fake ad, which was interrupted by the Energizer Bunny bass-drum-thumping across the screen.

We were in a Hilton in Tupelo, Miss., investigating a story for our late unlamented feature column about a young couple that had just gotten hitched, even though a few months earlier the groom had shot her five times in the head at close range with the world's worst .32-caliber ammunition. And we sat in our room in disbelief--not at the bride's explanation ("We been going together for six years and it was just time"), but that we--the vaunted, virtually infallible Ad Review staff--could be fooled by a parody ad.

Then, a moment later, came a spot for an instant coffee, Tres Cafe--another parody, interrupted by the Bunny. And we were suckered by that, too. Then came one for Chateau Marmoset and, incredibly, even though a marmoset is some sort of South American monkey or something, we fell for that one, as well.

"Dang," we declared to ourselves. "We are witnesses to history." As usual, we weren't wrong.

The Energizer Bunny has taken many a road, and many a detour since. Most have been satisfying, or at least satisfactory; a few have not. But now, after 11 years, TBWA/Chiat/Day's famous campaign returns whence it began: perfectly crafted fake ads invaded by the pink mechanical rodent who "keeps going and going." Only this time in keeping with progress, the campaign enters a new dimension: cyberspace.

Consider the fake political ad, for the clean-cut Bob Fremgen. A gentle female voice-over tells us "no candidate cares more about our kids."

Sure enough, we see him in the obligatory shirtsleeves, walking at a playground hand-in-hand with a rainbow of diverse youngsters. Then moments later, the candidate Fremgen, walking behind a swing set as the Bunny crosses into the frame, is knocked by a soaring child right onto his clean-cut ass.

"Still going," says the familiar male voice-over.

"Long-lasting Energizer batteries keep going and going and going."

But wait, there's more. If you heed the on-screen type and go online to www.bobfremgen.com, you see a dead-on knockoff of a political Web site, including Fremgen's memorable quotation: "Without children, there would be no adults."

Funnier still is the triple threat for Growzan, the hair restorer. The fake ad, with the protagonist in a Jacuzzi, is undetectable as a fraud till the Bunny thumps past. Then the presenter turns, revealing his back to be a furry apelike mess. Dial the toll-free number provided and learn more: Side effects include "unsightly back mane, nasal moustache, toe fur." Surf to www.growzan.com and learn still more: "Patients may experience slight tingling of the scalp followed by severe headaches and loss of memory."

Pretty hilarious. Also pretty impressive integrated marketing. Also an extremely good method of stimulating buzz; the Web site content can easily be sent as an

e-mail to friends. And each element is as convincing a fraud in its medium as the TV spots are in theirs.

There are two other spots, one for a faux Internet shopping site called InMyUnderwear.com and one for a long-distance service marketed at teens. The former falls flat, but the latter is amusing, faithful to the genre it is sending up. More to the point, though, this whole campaign is faithful to the landmark conceit that long ago spawned it--proving that a Big Idea, properly nurtured, can keep going and going, possibly forever.

Copyright October 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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