The shiny-suited BunnyPeople first appeared in two 1997 Super Bowl spots created by Euro RSCG DSW Partners, Salt Lake City, to introduce MMX, a feature that improved the multimedia powers of the Pentium chip.
The spots, playing off the real-life chip factory workers who wear contaminant-free "bunny suits," dressed up dancers in fluorescent bunny suits and turned on the disco beat to show the MMX team that puts the fun inside Intel chips.
"They were a human metaphor for the benefit of Pentium with MMX," says Ms. Lewnes, 36, director of worldwide advertising and a self-described "evangelist" for selling the characters inside and outside Intel.
When the BunnyPeople proved an immediate hit in launch ads, Ms. Lewnes and her marketing colleagues moved quickly to exploit their emerging icon. Intel called on BunnyPeople to put in appearances at trade shows, in stores and even at street fairs in China. The faceless BunnyPeople were designed to work globally.
Intel went on to give away or sell 450,000 BunnyPeople dolls. And BunnyPeople went on to star in a variety of ads, including some targeting serious business computer users.
BunnyPeople are ridiculed by many tech ad executives, who contend the whimsical characters degrade one of the world's most important technology brands and do little to promote Intel's incredible engineering feats.
But Ms. Lewnes, a 13-year Intel veteran, says Intel research shows BunnyPeople resonate with serious business buyers as much as consumers. She believes BunnyPeople succeed by mixing "the high-tech characters with the human touch."
"The BunnyPeople characters are based on the technicians that manufacture the processor, so rooted in them is a very serious side of this business," Ms. Lewnes says. "They've become sort of a metaphor for Intel. There are a lot of different sides to Intel"-both serious and "more whimsical and exciting."
Ms. Lewnes is scouting for more ways to work her BunnyPeople. "I think they absolutely have a future at Intel," she says. "The real kind of challenge for us is how to evolve them [and] make them even more meaningful."