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    Big Oil Ads Steer Clear of Price Issues

    New trend emerges in service- and product-centered marketing.

    DETROIT -- As consumers hunt for the lowest prices around using Web sites such as gasbuddy.com, large oil companies such as Shell Oil Co. and BP are skirting the rising prices and instead, going with a more customer experience approach, AdvertisingAge reported.

    Americans have already spent more than $40 billion on gasoline in 2007, equal to what was spent in all of 2002, according to Peter Beutel, president of energy-risk management firm Cameron Beutel. He told AdAge the country is headed for a recession sparked by energy costs. "These prices are absurdly high," he said, noting that oil companies are "sucking billions of dollars out of consumers' pockets."

    Shell is using a three-prong strategy developed in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, a spokeswoman told AdvertisingAge. She also attributed the price spikes as part of a cyclical business, the report stated.

    The company recently launched a $35 million retail gasoline ad campaign from JWT, located in Houston, themed "Passionate Experts." The campaign features two lab coat-wearing engineers showing how Shell's gasoline prevents "gunky" engine build-up, and featured the tag "Made to Move."

    Meanwhile, BP unveiled an animated commercial from New York-based Ogilvy & Mather that shows cartoon characters -- with cute names such as Beeps and Burt and the Lighthouse family -- filling up their gas tanks at a bright green-and-yellow BP stations with whistling gas pumps.

    While it might be the opposite of the $3-per-gallon gasoline reality, Ann Hand, senior vice president of global brand marketing and innovation at BP in London, said "people may be upset about pricing" in the "low-involvement category" of retail gasoline. However consumers are more sensitive about brand differences in fuels. "We are finding people want it all -- price and good service," she told AdvertisingAge.

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