An ad campaign
run by the Duracell battery
company in the mid-1990's in the United States. The premise was simple. The Puttermans
are your average family
. Each television spot would thrust the family into a sitcom
plot that invariably proved how much better Duracell batteries were than the competitors'.
There was the father Herb, the mother Flo, son Zack, daughter Trish, and the Aunt1. The painfully unfunny 30-second sitcom plots were horrible enough by themselves, but there was another reason the public did not respond well to the ads. Basically, the family looked really creepy2. The reason was because the Puttermans harbored a dark secret: they were robots that required gigantic batteries embedded in their backs to continue operating. Furthermore, they had a cartoony, plasticized appearance3 that frightened children.4
My memory is a bit sketchy at this point, but the plots usually involved the family expending a lot of energy without any loss in functionality. However, the aunt would stop operating because she was using SupervoltTM brand batteries. The Puttermans, and apparently everyone else they encountered, used Duracells. There were several ads, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. I don't recall seeing the Puttermans outside of the television ad world, except for some calling cards with their images.5
The ad campaign was well-intentioned. Duracell used to run a campaign in the late 1980's around toys and showed they ran longer on their batteries. Eveready released their Energizer line of batteries and used a parody of the toy theme to promote it, resulting in the Energizer Bunny. The Bunny had an attitude. It twirled its drumstick and twisted, mocking its defunct competitors. It eventually became a trademark; it had soul. Duracell's cold ad campaign had to go. Something different, something striking, something that spoke to us about the human condition had to be used. Hence, the Puttermans.
Of course, the Puttermans are relegated to our repressed memories, and the Energizer Bunny is still with us today. The lesson? Fluffy animals win over plastic people.
1 I can't recall the name. I think it might have been "Edna."
2 What's even creepier is I recall some comments made on Usenet that Trish was "hot."
3 Contrary to many guesses, no computer-generated graphics or effects were used to create the Puttermans. It is all make-up based, created by visual effects artist Steve Johnson.
4 On a kid-scaring scale, this was one notch right below clowns.
5 This is probably more of a testament to the calling card-collecting fad at the time than the popularity of the ad campaign.