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The challenge facing Mark Larsen, when he took over as category manager of communication for Energizer at Eveready Battery Co., was to keep its renowned bunny going and going.

"The bunny is and always will be" part of American culture, says Mr. Larsen, 39, who joined Energizer in February 1996.

One of his most memorable first impressions on the job was the flurry of bunny fan mail he received. Several of the letters touched Mr. Larsen, especially one from a woman who used the bunny to inspire her cancer-stricken child not to give up.

Yet, Mr. Larsen knew the ads parodying other advertising with the unexpected appearance of the bunny at the end were in and of themselves becoming expected.

"We really wanted to dial it up and connect back with the consumer even stronger," he says.

After donning his bunny ears, he and the team at TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif., came up with a new approach. Inspired by what he calls the "obsession" with the bunny, and anticipating the videotape release of the movie "Twister" in the fourth quarter of 1996, the concept of "spotters"-scientists who look for phenomena-was worked into new documentary-style bunny spots.

The new spots succeeded in bringing the bunny to an historic high unaided and top-of-mind awareness, says Mr. Larsen, who once dabbled in copywriting but decided he was too slow to earn a living at it.

Now, his job is to continue to nuture this marketer's dream.

"The challenge is to keep it fresh and innovative," says Mr. Larsen. "I'm honored to be carrying the baton for the next leg of the journey."

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