Pennzoil product gets $20 mil push

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Pennzoil-Quaker State Co. pitches its new product in a $20 million campaign as truly rocket science.

Pennzoil Synthetic motor oil is made of Pennzane, an additive first developed by the marketer for NASA. Defined by Jim Postl, president-chief operating officer of Quaker-Pennzoil as "a super lubricant," the product is capable of functioning in wide extremes of temperature, he said, to lessen engine wear and tear.

Network TV and cable advertising breaking Feb. 2 from GSD&M, Austin, Texas, plays off the NASA connection, with the theme "Rocket science for your car." Both the spots and packaging mention Pennzane was developed for the space program, and a promotion starting in March will pair the brand with the release of Touchstone Pictures' "Mission to Mars."

The reformulated motor oil replaces Pennzoil's Performax, which Mr. Postl said "we didn't do a very good job of distinguishing in the market." But the new product, he said, offers unique benefits that will make it stand out.

Performax was the least expensive brand in the so-called full-synthetic segment which is the industry's top-of-the-line and priciest, said Ann Wright, product manager of automotive services for NPD Group, a marketing research company. Pennzoil Synthetic, however, will be priced more in line with competitors, at around $4 per quart, she said.


Mobil Corp.'s Mobil One "virtually owns" the full synthetic category, she added, declining to give its market share. The other leading players include Castrol North America and Valvoline Co.

Pennzoil Synthetic competes in the semi-synthetic category, an area the company is entering for the first time, Ms. Wright said.

GSD&M worked with PRG, New York, on the movie product placement deal that landed Pennzoil Synthetic in the Touchstone film about a manned space mission to Mars. The co-branded promotion offers prizes, including tickets to the movie. The grand prize is a ride on NASA's first commercial space flight, although the winner could opt for cash instead.

Graphics of the motor oil and movie will be also added to the exterior of Pennzoil's Winston Cup race car in early March.

Mr. Postl admitted Pennzoil was "late in the game in synthetics." Still, the combined motor-oil market share of the Pennzoil and Quaker brands grew by seven-eighths of a point last year, rising to 38%.

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