All Revved Up: Die Hard Reboots Iconic Battery Spot

Frozen car on the lake starts up again—but with a twist

Headshot of Robert Klara

In 1975, Sears created a now-famous TV commercial in which it parked a car atop a frozen Minnesota lake, left it there for the winter and then miraculously got the engine to start. The spot was for DieHard, and it helped to make it the No. 1 auto-battery brand in the U.S. Now, nearly 40 years later, that ad is back. Sort of.

In a 30-second spot set to debut April 1, viewers will again see a vehicle abandoned on a frozen lake. But this time, once the car starts up, it runs headlong into a kid’s boot. With a creative assist from Y&R, DieHard is riffing off the classic spot so it can promote its alkaline batteries—the kind that power flashlights and, in this case, remote-control cars. “We’re taking the equity of the auto battery and leveraging it in the alkaline space,” said DieHard brand director George Kurkowski.

DieHard’s partnership with flashlight-maker Dorcy will also broaden its distribution beyond Sears and on to the shelves of major retail chains.

In creating the new commercial, Y&R’s chief creative officer Bob Winter said his team took pains to replicate everything from the original camera angles to the deep voice of the narrator: “We wanted this to really look like the original ‘Frozen Lake’ spot.”

The only trouble: The original Minnesota lake no longer freezes over because of global warming, so they decided to use a lake in Montana instead. 

@UpperEastRob Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.