Chevron Corp.

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Advertiser: Chevron Corp.
Agency: Young & Rubicam, San Francisco
Rating: 3 stars (out of 4)

The first thing about this animated-car campaign from Chevron Corp. is that it is nothing at all like that incredibly slick animated gas-pump series from Mobil. Or is it Shell? Sinclair? Whatever. You know the one; the computer animation is so seamless and lifelike, it makes Roger Rabbit look like Johnny Quest.

The Chevron stuff from Young & Rubicam, San Francisco, is very clever stop-action clay animation in its own right, but not because it is slick. It's clever because it's observant. The spots feature claymated automobiles testifying why they need and demand Chevron gasoline with the new additive Techron, and the anthropomorphized cars have speech patterns and gestures like real human speakers.

"Well," a compact car begins, "as an older car, uh, even, uh, though I have a couple of scratches, it's nice to have the scratches clean. But, uh, you know, every part of me has to be clean, and...and part of that is...is the inner workings of my, uh, my engine. But Chevron with Techron helps clean me and keep my emissions low. Which is real important in my line of work, being a car."

Then the voice-over: "New Chevron with Techron. Chevron. Simply smarter."

As the car talks, its headlight eyes move absently left and right, or nervously to the sky. Its grille lips tighten or contort, narrow and widen, just as people do. And, yes, the car stammers. The overall effect is quite striking.

While comparisons to the dancing gas pumps are inevitable, these characters owe a far greater debt to the British Electric Consortium's "Creature Comforts" campaign that began four years ago, itself an outgrowth of an Oscar-winning animated BBC film.

In those brilliant and wonderful commercials, claymated animal figures mouthed the words of non-actors--recorded in genuine consumer interviews--with sometimes hilarious results.

Y&R hired the U.K.'s Aardman Animations in Bristol to do for cars what they did for animals. And so the production house did. Exactly, right up to reprising their own visual jokes.

For instance, in one electric-heat spot, an exotic bird resting on a wooden perch is speaking as his fellow exotic bird gradually sidles next to him, insinuating himself into the center of the action. In the above Chevron spot, a bird on an overhead phone wire does the same. (And the car, fearing fallout, sidles out of range.)

But so what? Originality does not great advertising make. The question is: are the spots saying anything about Chevron? And the answer is...maybe.

Unlike the remarkably animated Shell-or-Sinclair-or-Mobil dancing pumps, which are about the technology of computer animation, the Chevron talking cars are unmistakably about the technology of Chevron's fuel additive. After a few exposures to these spots it's impossible to come away without knowing Chevron has introduced Techron, and Techron is allegedly good for your engine.

Of course, all oil companies have some high-tech sounding trademark for their detergent additives, and this campaign does zero to explain--much less persuade--why Chevron's is any better. But perhaps in time that will come. As introductory advertising, this does the job.

As opposed to Sunoco and its bazillion-dollar square-dancing pump island. Or is it Shell?

Copyright June 1995 Crain Communications Inc.

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