The Puttermans

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The Puttermans are a fictional family that appeared in a series of advertisements for Duracell from 1994 to 1996. The ad campaign was created by New York-based advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather.

The Puttermans were a family of plastic robots who outlasted others, thanks to their Duracell brand batteries (a playful reference to their deadpan 1970s ad campaign which featured head-to-head competition between toys). The campaign was made to combat the successful Energizer Bunny ad campaign.

The original campaign was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, whereas later executions (using the "No battery is stronger, longer" claim) were helmed by David Kellogg.[1]

The characters were developed by special effects guru Steven Johnson and his company XFX, Inc. The actors were made up to look as if they were claymation or computer animation characters. The costumes consisted of boxy modular units of stiff foam rubber coated with urethane. The characters all had large copper-top batteries protruding from their backs and their faces were made of state-of-the-art latex prosthetics designed to heavily caricature the actors' own features, and complete character wardrobes. They tended to alienate viewers, due to their non-human yet non-toy or cartoon appearance, and the series of commercials was abandoned. At the time, the actor identities were not revealed to preserve the family's mystique.

The family consisted of:

  • Herb, the father (Keith Langsdale)
  • Flo, his wife, the mother (Marla Frees)
  • Son Zack (Debi Derryberry)
  • Daughter Trish (Krystee Clark)[2][3]
  • Grandma Putterman, who was actually played by a male actor.
  • Aunt Gert (Lanie Zera)

Some of the commercial plots included the following:

  • The Puttermans attend a family reunion picnic. A talkative relative freezes up mid-sentence and falls face first into a plate of spaghetti, and the Puttermans jokingly accuse her husband of switching her Duracell battery with an off-brand.
  • Trish Putterman and boyfriend Bruce sit on a porch swing, and wish that their romantic night could go on forever with the help of Duracell.
  • Grandma Putterman is so filled with energy, she can't stop dancing.

In popular culture[edit]

Halloween costumes of Herb and Flo, complete with latex masks, were released in North America.

American rock band Primus wore Putterman-like costumes of themselves made up like cowboys in the Les Claypool-directed video for "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver".

On the December 3, 1994 episode of the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, as part of Weekend Update, anchor Norm McDonald joked, "The new ad campaign for Duracell batteries is already having a dramatic effect. Over seventy percent of consumers say they now find the batteries, quote, 'creepy and disturbing'."[4]

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