Motor oils take celebrity route to add glamour

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Pennzoil and Quaker State both unveiled new ads and new spokesmen over the weekend.

The competitors, which tied the knot in late 1998 with the creation of Pennzoil-Quaker State Co., still market their motor oil brands individually.

Both new campaigns were set to break nationally on CBS' coverage of the NCAA's Final Four college basketball tournament. That's not where the similarities end. Both brands have relatively new marketing executives. And each is spending more than $20 million -- Pennzoil for its conventional Pure Base motor oil and Quaker State for its synthetic line.


Dwain Celistan, senior VP-marketing on Pennzoil since late February, said the new campaign from GSD&M, Austin, Texas, touts the motor oil's performance against rivals Castrol, Havoline, Mobil and Valvoline. Pennzoil hired an outside company to test the motor oils in an engine that ran continuously for 128 hours under the same conditions.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre stars in the new campaign. In the commercial, the oil drip pan on the engine with Pennzoil is spotless, while the others are clogged with black gunk. Mr. Favre uses the gunk to paint two wide swaths under his eyes.

"Protection so strong you can see the difference" is the new tag, replacing the 4-year-old "Stop. Go. Pennzoil."

A second spot is planned for later this year and at least two more are slated for 2001, possibly with other celebrities.

"We're hoping to create our own kind of milk mustache ads," said Ronnie Steck, account supervisor at GSD&M. "Celebrity appeal is something we definitely want."

Quaker State's new spokeswoman is actress Leah Remini of the CBS sitcom "The King of Queens." She replaces actor Tom Berenger.

"We are trying to reach out to women" in a "testosterone" category, said Steve Hanson, senior VP-brand marketing at Quaker State.

The Tucker Partnership, New York, created five 30-second spots -- two aimed at women who go somewhere to have their oil changed. In them, Ms. Remini touts the engine-protecting benefits of Quaker State's reformulated synthetics between oil changes of more than the recommended 3,000 miles.

Bill Tucker, managing partner of the agency, said the average car owner changes their car's oil every 5,600 miles and feels guilty about not doing it sooner.


Both brands will advertise heavily in sports programming, including national network and cable stations -- with Quaker State using the ads not aimed at women -- but the cable buy for both also includes other networks such as Comedy Central.

Both will test print ads on a small scale, each with an estimated $1 million buy.

Synthetic motor oil is the fastest growing part of the industry but still a small segment, said Ann White, product manager of automotive services for market researcher NPD Group. Synthetic motor oil costs more -- in the $4 per quart range vs. $1.50 a quart for conventional oil. But conventional motor oil shot up from about $1 per quart in the past six months due to the Middle East oil production cutbacks.

Ms. White said most consumers probably don't know or care that Pennzoil and Quaker State are under the same corporate umbrella, noting, "They compete with each other and other brands as well."

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