Retro Commercials: Energizer Batteries

I don’t know about you, but commercials can often take me back to my formative years as quickly as any song or movie can. That is why we will continue this semi-regular feature on ’80s commercials that I consider particularly memorable, noteworthy, or forgotten. Television commercials were much more influential back when we were forced to watch them without the luxury to fast-forward through and/or stream shows with limited or no interruptions. This issue will cover the Energizer battery commercials from the late ’80s.

Energizer is now one of the largest manufacturers of batteries in the world. Energizer as a brand was not introduced until 1980 as part of the Eveready/Union Carbide company. Most people now associate them with the Energizer Bunny which debuted in 1988 and we will certainly get to that, but first let’s remember the commercials with Jacko. No, not Michael Jackson, but Mark “Jacko” Jackson – the Australian dude who promoted the brand for a couple years before the bunny came along. After Crocodile Dundee was released in late 1986, Americans became extra infatuated with Australians. Men at Work had already been popular earlier in the decade, but this was also the same time that INXS and Midnight Oil were experiencing pop music success in the U.S. as well.

So Energizer chose a brash, loud, and quite possibly brain-damaged ex-Australian Rules footballer to be its pitchman. Mark “Jacko” Jackson was possibly more famous for his antics on the field than for his playing. Jacko somehow parlayed his Australian notoriety into a gig as an international TV commercial star. He stopped short of saying anything like that’s not a knife or about throwing shrimp on the barbie or about Vegemite. His performance style mostly consisted of stomping around and yelling “Oi!” or with extreme close-ups exclaiming “One of these!”, but that and his extreme Australian accent/antics seemed to be enough. The Energizer commercials ended with a excitable Jacko bellowing “Get Energizer. It’ll surprise ya! Oi!”.

Here is one of the original commercial spots featuring Jacko…

Here is another with a similar theme…

This one specifically claims that Energizer will last 20% longer than Duracell batteries…

And here is one from Christmas 1987…

He definitely stood out at the time, but many might have forgotten about these Jacko Energizer commercials because beginning in late 1988, a new Energizer mascot would enter the scene. And that particular mascot is still going today. The Energizer Bunny, a pink mechanical toy rabbit wearing sunglasses and flip-flops while it beats a bass drum bearing the Energizer logo, has gone on to appear in more that 115 television commercials over the last 3+ decades.

The Energizer Bunny was first created as a parody of the Duracell Bunny (which had originated back in 1973). Either Duracell hadn’t trademarked the drumming bunny character or it had lapsed by 1988 allowing Energizer the ability to use it to their advantage and ultimately create their own trademark. The very first Energizer Bunny commercial was broadcast on U.S. television on October 30, 1988. Produced by the DDB Needham Chicago advertising agency, the spot began as a direct parody of Duracell’s original “Drumming Bunny” ads. In the original Duracell ads, a set of battery-powered drum-playing toy rabbits gradually slow to a halt until only the one powered by a Duracell copper-top battery remains active. In Energizer’s parody, the batteries don’t just last longer but the Energizer Bunny enters the screen midway through the ad, beating a huge bass drum and swinging a mallet over his head, really showing up the competition. It originally still used this tagline, “A word to the wise… Energize.”

Here is the original commercial introducing the Energizer Bunny from 1988…

All Effects Company, Inc. was brought in to create the actual Energizer Bunny used in the commercials. Eric Allard’s company was robotics supervisor and creator of Johnny 5 for the 1986 film Short Circuit as well as some other projects before and has gone on to provide special effects for lots of films and television projects since. I bet he never thought that this little pink bunny would end up being arguably his most recognized achievement.

Beginning in 1989, they started to employ the “nothing outlasts the Energizer” as well as the “still going” taglines. The subsequent commercials also showed the Energizer Bunny leaving the set of its own commercial and interrupting commercials for other fictional products.

Here is an evolution of the original ad that was airing in 1989…

Here is a slightly different variation from 1989…

Here is one more from 1989…

As they moved into the early ’90s, the Energizer Bunny even went up against foes like the Wicked Witch of the West, Wile E. Coyote, Boris & Natasha and even Darth Vader.  It did not air in the ’80s, but is connected to an ’80s movie, so I still wanted to share this awesome 1994 spot with Darth Vader…

In 1999, over a decade after his launch, Ad Age named the Energizer Bunny one of the top brand icons of the entire century. It is certainly hard to disagree with that. The term “Energizer Bunny” has now even entered the pop culture vernacular as a term for anything that continues endlessly or someone that has immense stamina.

When Energizer’s 1988 parody became an advertising success and Energizer trademarked its bunny, Duracell decided to revive the Duracell Bunny campaign and filed for a new U.S. trademark of its own, citing the original use of the character more than a decade earlier. Eventually, in January of 1992, the dispute was reportedly resolved in an out of court settlement, where Energizer (and its bunny) took exclusive trademark rights in the United States and Canada while Duracell (and its bunny) took exclusive rights in all other places in the world. It has certainly worked out well for Energizer. Who would have thought that their little pink bunny would still be going all of these years later?

There you go, another trip down memory lane in the form of TV commercials. It is impressive to see that the Energizer Bunny is still going over 3 decades later, but it is important to remember that the brand and its now iconic bunny really each started in the ’80s.

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About OldSchool80s 67 Articles
Old School Tim has an adoring devotion to the awesome '80s decade. He loves to relive and share that nostalgia on a regular basis. The Kickin' it Old School blog site has been retired, but you can still get daily doses of '80s goodness on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and anywhere else they let him.

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