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Drives great, less filling 

In January 2004, I took delivery of a long-awaited and sight-unseen Toyota Prius. My brother Ewan had bought one the year before and had been talking it up. He's an engineer who works in alternative energy research, so I figured he knew what he was talking about. I loved this car the moment I got behind the wheel. I had to work hard to keep the virtuous "I'm using less gas than you are and I have GPS" smirk off my face.

Then my husband bought me a sticker-making machine for Valentine's Day. In a tiny and mostly useless flash of brilliance while sitting in traffic on Davis Drive, I thought up what I still think is the funniest hybrid-car-bumper-sticker-that-rips-off-a-beer-ad ever: "Drives great, less filling." I made one for my car, one for Ewan's car, and even one for my sister-in-law's car (she has the hybrid Civic, but we love her anyway).

Skip forward a year, and I get an e-mail from Ewan. "Hey, I entered your slogan in a contest, and we're running second!" Turns out he stole my idea and sent it in to the nice people at newdream.org, who were running a contest to come up with the most convincing slogan to send to car manufacturers. He wasn't going to tell me about this unless we won something.

I asked my friends to vote for the slogan. Someone at work told me that the Independent ran an article on the contest, and then showed me a list of the slogans he came up with. We came to realize that the vote-for prize was actually roadside assistance, not a Prius. We were saddened, even though we realized that we both had Priuses and didn't actually need new ones. Still.

Ewan and I were thrilled when "Drives great, less filling" finished second out of the 34,000 entries. Strangely, though, Ewan did not get a nice note from the newdream people, congratulating him on the prize. We attributed this to the probably hippy-ness of the newdream people.

This weekend we got an e-mail saying that five people submitted the same slogan, and all of them are getting the roadside assistance prize. None of them are my brother. He wrote to the newdream people, asking what's up. Turns out he, in his engineer way, rewrote the slogan to be "more grammatically correct." His entry was actually "Hybrids: Drive great, less filling." Not funny, and not a winner. Meanwhile, the folks at newdream pointed out an article in Newsweek from November 2004 that used the "drives great, less filling" phrase. We're flummoxed, until Ewan remembered attending a national hybrid energy conference for work--and telling everyone he saw what a great tagline that would be for an ad. Note to self: Do not share bank account numbers with your brother.

I like to think that all five winners live in the Triangle, saw the sticker and read about the contest in the Indy. I'd love for one of them--heck, all of them--to win a Prius. Better yet, I'd love to see someone actually pick up that slogan for an ad. Then, I think it would be OK to smirk a little.

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