Ad Pair's Return Irks Insurance Association

They're back.

Harry and Louise, the all-American couple who appeared in television ads that helped scuttle the Clinton health care plan in 1993, have returned in their starring roles. But this time, Harry and Louise are working for someone else. They're trying to stop a bill in Congress that would ban cloning research.

The reappearance has caused considerable consternation among the insurance group that invented the fictional husband-and-wife team. The Health Insurance Association of America, which represents 300 members, provides health, long-term care, dental, disability, and supplemental coverage to more than 100 million Americans. HIAA President Don Young said they have nothing to do with the new ads and someone has stolen their mascots.

"They hijacked our ads," Young said.

In 1993, HIAA ads featuring Harry and Louise helped turn public opinion against the Clinton health care plan that eventually ended in the former president's first major policy defeat. The ads were also billed a political and advertising success, and the couple were briefly resurrected in a 2000 ad campaign.

Banking on that success, HIAA's former advertising agency, Goddard Claussen Porter Novelli, decided to revive Harry and Louise this year using the same actors and same names but for another client.

Executives at GCPN say it's perfectly fair for them to use Harry and Louise again since the HIAA did not secure the Harry and Louise name for itself and the actors were not contracted to the insurance group.

"HIAA did not trademark the 'Harry & Louise' name, which is the moniker the news media attached to the 1993 advertising campaign on health care reform. The actors were under contract to HIAA for only two years after the commercials first appeared," company head Ben Goddard said in a statement.

HIAA said they plan to sue to get their characters back. One intellectual property attorney said he thinks they may have a case.

"Federal regulation of a trademark is irrelevant in this situation," attorney Frank Martinez said. "It helps but trademark rights arise through use and commerce. Harry and Louise were used for the HIAA."