Eveready's 5-year-old Energizer Bunny, which has already bested King Kong and Darth Vader, has weird new challengers Duracell's Putterman family. You know the Puttermans they're the suburbanites who play miniature golf and have barbecues. At stake is the $3-billion-a-year battery business.
The duel began last fall when Duracell introduced the Puttermans in a $50 million campaign from Ogilvy & Mather. Though Duracell remains the top-selling battery, reaction to its clan has been mixed. The Puttermans (actors covered in latex and prosthetics) have been cheered on Dateline and jeered on Saturday Night Live. Two recent polls labeled the ads, which were directed by Addams Family Values' Barry Sonnenfeld, among the worst of '94. But Duracell is sticking by its family. ''People use the product, and the commercials are about people,'' says Jim Donahue, a Duracell spokesman. ''The bunny has raised awareness of pink bunnies but not of Energizer.''
How's Energizer handling the competitive current? It plans to counter the attacks by still going and going (its new commercial pits the drummerbunny against Wile E. Coyote). Says Scott Vincent, a copywriter at Chiat/Day, the ad agency for Energizer, ''The competition has made both ad agencies better.'' Now that's a charge.