What's the Big Idea?

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How do you reward a tried-and-true strategy that's aired for over two years? In car advertising, you kill it like a bad weed. Saatchi & Saatchi/New York's campaign, featuring stage actor Marc Kudisch as a talking head on a ubiquitous TV screen, had served the automaker well; the spots achieved the goal of creating a long-running personality and brand awareness, says executive CD Jay Montgomery. "People could recite dialogue from commercials that hadn't aired in six months," he marvels. But Montgomery and creative partner Stan Becker were both worried about the "wear-out factor," and late last year, TV Guy's fate was sealed: "Let's kill him," the team and the client decided.

But there may be life after death after all. After holding a funeral for TV Guy ("a send-off," Montgomery likes to call it) in six spots that aired in January, Saatchi resurrected him in Toyota tout heaven. Next, they created a search for a new spokesperson - complete with Broadway Danny Rose-style audition spots - culminating in a year-end "revelation" that Montgomery is keeping under wraps. "It's something that nobody's ever done before and we don't want somebody to beat us to it," he explains.

Becker and Montgomery have worked together on and off for 10 years, fueled by the yin and yang that makes such partnerships thrive. How are they different? Montgomery counts the ways: "He's a Democrat and I'm a Republican. He's from the Bronx and I'm from Cincinnati. He's a Mets fan, I'm a Yankees fan. He's Jewish and I'm Presbyterian. It goes on and on."

Of course, there's plenty they have in common, too, such as the belief that just maybe, good advertising characters never die. Squire Fridell, a Toyota spokesman for 20 years, returns for the TV Guy afterlife spots; and hey, isn't that good old Joe Isuzu in the competition's latest spots? (Christina NuĀ¤ez)

Client: New York Region Toyota Dealer Association Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi CD: Jay Montgomery AD: Valerie Williams/Jim Hondorp CW: Jay Montgomery/Stan Becker/Debra Smith Director: Arnie Lerner Production Company: Lerner Films Postproduction: Invisible Dog

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