Invasion of the giant bunnies - courtesy of Sony

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It is about to become clear why Manhattan suffered an invasion of brightly coloured rabbits over a sweltering few days in early August, and why a 30ft plasticine bunny towered over a downtown square for several hours, causing even normally blasé New Yorkers to double-take.

Sony is premiering the latest television advert for its Bravia flatscreen TV tonight (for the benefit of British viewers, it is at 9.10pm on Channel 4, during the first episode of the new series of Ugly Betty). In the tradition established by its previous commercials, it is ambitious, impressive, heart-warming – and arriving on a wave of hype.

With a cast of cutesy Play-doh bunnies running through the streets of Manhattan, as New Yorkers go about their daily business, the 90-second ad is one of the most complex and expensive pieces of stop-motion animation attempted. And it cements the reputation of London's Fallon advertising agency which, through its work for Sony, has become one of the hottest creative agencies.

Fallon is also the company behind the drumming gorilla of the Cadbury's Dairy Milk ad and the Skoda cake from earlier this year, both of which have gained a life of their own on the internet. But it is the Bravia ads that have spawned the greatest number of spin-offs, spoofs and online chatter, and the Play-doh instalment has been no exception.

The figures

* Two and a half tonnes of plasticine moulded by 40 animators to create 100,000 still images that generate a 90-second commercial featuring 200 rabbits, including a 30ft giant bunny

Epic adverts

* Guinness

Guinness has become synonymous with innovative ads, but 1999's "Horses and Surfers" is regarded as its greatest triumph. Filmed in Hawaii, it shows four surfers attempting to ride the huge breaks of waves shown as white horses galloping towards the shore. The horses had to be trained to move in time with scenes already shot in Hawaii.

* Chanel

Chanel's 2004 commercial for its No. 5 perfume was a three-minute film directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Nicole Kidman, who netted £2m for the four-day shoot. Kidman played a famous beauty pursued by a tormented writer, played by Brazilian Rodrigo Santoro. The icing on the cake of the £18m ad was a 687-piece diamond necklace.

* Honda

Epic for different reasons was Honda's 2003 advert for its Accord model. "The Cog" may not have cost as much as the Chanel ad, but it was probably more labour-intensive. Featuring a series of car components hitting, nudging and blowing each other in a domino effect lasting two minutes, it took 606 takes to get right. Honda said that it only used computer-generated imagery to alter lighting.

* BA

British Airways' "Face" ad in 1989, created by Saatchi & Saatchi, was regarded as a breakthrough in big ad ideas. It showed thousands of extras huddling together to form a face, which smiles and winks. The actors then move around to form a picture of the world. The ad reached 600 million viewers and is said to have helped change the airline's fortunes.