Launches First Television Campaign in a Decade

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DETROIT ( -- With $10 million in hand and cartoon characters by its side, spark plug maker Autolite is returning to TV advertising for the first time in nearly a decade.

The new ads, which break April 6, feature the ascerbic animated characters of the Fox TV series King of the Hill. The cartoon series is an adult satire centered around the daily life and travails of a propane gas delivery man in working class Texas.

Hank Hill and friends will be pitchmen for Autolite products in ads that adopt the look and feel of the animated show.

First work from McCann
The multimillion-dollar campaign marks the Honeywell brand's return to TV and is the first work on the brand from Interpublic Group of Cos.'s McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Troy, Mich. McCann won Honeywell's $10 million Autolite and Fram accounts last summer without a review; Havas' Arnold Worldwide, Boston, was the previous agency.

Tom Parr, McCann's senior vice president and creative director, said the agency worked cloesly with King of the Hill's directors and producers so the campaign has the same look as the show and uses the same voice-over talent.

Copywriter is a fan
He said Michael Joiner, the copywriter on the account, played a big role in developing the campaign. Mr. Parr described Mr. Joiner as "a big fan" of the show who "does great imitations of all the characters."

Dave Moore, executive vice president and executive creative director at McCann, said the first two spots both center around Bobby, Hank Hill's son. In the first commercial, Bobby uses a camcorder to capture his dad changing spark plugs on his pickup truck. In the other, Bobby meets retired Nascar driver Darrell Waltrip at a race. Autolite has been the officially sponsored spark plug of Nascar since September 2000. The tagline is "Autolite. It's time to change your plugs."

One-year deal with Fox
Autolite inked a one-year deal with Fox Licensing, but may extend it depending on the outcome of the campaign, said Charlie Metzger, McCann's executive vice president and director of business development. "This is very bold and unique for this category."

In 1994, Autolite, then owned by Allied Signal, ran a TV spot for its spark plugs and Fram air filters from Arnold Fortuna Lawner & Cabot that showed owners next to their vintage cars singing along with the George Thorogood song "Who Do You Love."

Honeywell acquired Allied Signal in fall 1999.

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