Shell hands JWT Houston $30 mil corporate account

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Shell Oil has tapped J. Walter Thompson, Houston, for an estimated $30 million corporate ad account, charging the agency with enhancing its reputation by emphasizing its environmental efforts.

The WPP Group agency picked up the account without a review. Incumbent Chernoff/Silver and Associates, Columbia, S.C., had handled the "Count on Shell" corporate effort since it returned in 1997 after a nearly 20-year hiatus. JWT won Shell's lubricants account three years ago when sibling Ogilvy & Mather, Houston, resigned it after winning the global assignment for competitor BP. JWT then landed Shell's fuels account. JWT's London office has Shell's global account.

"We're now moving into some programs aligned with what Shell does globally," said Rick Wirth, manager-brand and reputation at Shell.

Michael McDonald, general manager of JWT Houston, said the office's first corporate work, themed "Listening and Responding," was a TV and magazine ad pilot that just concluded a six-week run in Seattle and New Orleans. JWT and Shell are post-testing the campaign's results. The campaign spotlights Shell's "ongoing efforts in establishing viable renewable energy venues and engaging key segments of the public in a dialogue around these issues."

indirect boost

The targets of the campaign were financial types, academia and government organizations, Mr. Wirth said. JWT Houston developed a :30 TV spot featuring a Shell exploration worker showing how the oil marketer protects coral while drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The theme was adapted from a spot created by JWT London and used outside the U.S. In many markets, the campaign boosted Shell's gasoline sales even though the target wasn't the motoring public.

The same campaign aimed at the same target could go national early next year depending on the results. Whatever the execution, Shell plans a corporate campaign in 2003. "Our investment in the U.S. has varied over the years," he said. "We are launching what should be a much more sustainable commitment in communicating to people and building ... the brand." He said ad spending could rise in 2003, though Shell may opt to increase spending in other marketing disciplines.

Shell's parent, Royal Dutch/Shell Group, has invested heavily in the U.S. this year. Two of the four major deals it completed are in this country: the acquisitions of Pennzoil-Quaker State Co. and Texaco's interests in two ventures with Shell that include thousands of Texaco gas stations.

Shell is currently converting some 13,000 Texaco stations to Shell, and JWT has also been working on a "waves of change" ad campaign, which runs in local markets where the conversions are taking place.

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