Iconic Ads: National Battery – Fireman

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A Clio-winning commercial from Japan in 1984, using a toy firefighter to demonstrate the durability of National batteries.

A plastic toy Fireman with a National battery in it, as a voice declares in Japanese that scaling a skyscraper is this year’s National Neo High Top challenge. The toy plays happy music as it ascends a neon yellow ladder connected to a red fire truck. The length of the ladder is revealed as the camera moves up it, also revealing that it goes up the face of a very tall structure. The camera continues to follow the toy on its unending trek. The firemen’s ascent to the top of the skyscraper is intercut with shots of the city below and above. He then turns to the camera and asks, “Did you see me?” after using his water hose to extinguish a smoking cigarette. I have durability and power. National Neo High Top, voice-over repeat long-lasting battery,

This commercial’s adorable method of showcasing long-lasting performance endears it to viewers. Six years later, in 1992, Eveready Energiser’s Bunny started drumming his way into American popular culture, and the little toy Fireman’s unflagging enthusiasm in the face of an impossible mission appears to have been a forerunner.

The advertising agency that scripted and produced this, Hakuhodo found that the toy Fireman next to the actual aeroplane elicited the most reaction from viewers. A building was chosen because of its proximity to Osaka Airport. The production company and the building’s owner were understandably wary about allowing the crew to put up a ladder on the building wall. Two building owners turned down the agency before they were accepted.

Like the Energizer Bunny, the Little Firemen became an integral part of American popular culture when the ad went viral, prompting the creation of a series that aired for three years. The campaign finally extended to include a premium giveaway of the Fireman doll. Sales and recognition of the brand increased as audiences awaited the next adventure of the film’s protagonist, Fireman.

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