Pennzoil Looks for Clarity

The agency that wins Pennzoil Motor Oil’s estimated $30 million business will be asked to clarify a muddled marketing message and differentiate the brand in a crowded field, client svp of marketing Steve Hanson said.

Pennzoil’s positioning has been “a little confused” and too close to that of sister-product Quaker State, said Hanson.

Shell Lubricants, the brand’s owner, wants advertising that will specifically target drivers who want to coddle and protect their engines. By contrast, Quaker State, long marketed under the tagline, “The racer’s edge,” will continue to be aimed at drivers who want to increase their engine’s performance, Hanson said.

“Before, Pennzoil and Quaker talked the same message. But we really need to separate these brands so they’re clear in the consumer market and have different targets,” Hanson said. “As we move in the right directions, we want to make sure we have the right groups working [with us],” he said.

Quaker State, handled by The Tucker Group in New York, is not part of the review.

Omnicom Group’s GSD&M is defending the creative portion of the account. Despite appearances that Pennzoil has been unhappy with the shop’s work, Hanson said, “If we were really that dissatisfied, they wouldn’t be a part of the review process.”

Austin, Texas-based GSD&M will continue to handle the brand’s media planning and buying, which are not part of the review.

RFPs from Roth Associates in New York, the consultancy handling the review, were sent to about 15 shops last week and are due back at the end of the week, sources said.

Among the shops that have received the RFP, according to sources: Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners and Publicis, both New York; WPP Group’s J. Walter Thompson, Houston; The Richards Group, Dallas; Interpublic Group’s Deutsch/LA, Marina del Rey, Calif.; IPG’s Mullen, Wenham, Mass.; The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.; Rubin Postaer and Associates, Santa Monica, Calif.; and IPG’s Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco.

The agency that wins the Houston-based client’s account will face the challenge of appealing to drivers who want to take care of their vehicles, but don’t know much about their choices in auto-care products, Hanson said. “We’re still learning how to target this consumer,” he added. “We have produced ads that don’t seem to be doing what they need to.”

Net sales for Pennzoil-Quaker State’s lubricants segment were about $930 million for the nine months ended Sept. 30 of last year, down 4 percent from approximately $970 million for the same period in 2001, according to Pennzoil-Quaker State, which Shell acquired last October. The client attributed the drop primarily to lower sales volumes associated with non-branded, low-margin products.

Uncertainty about the ad message led the client to pull general-market and Spanish-language spots that were set to break in January. A different spot from Publicis Sanchez & Levitan, Dallas, was deemed more on target and is set to break later this month.

The Hispanic shop also created Pennzoil’s last general-market spot. In “Vigor,” which originally broke in Spanish, the motor oil is compared to a Viagra-like pill. Hanson said the spot moved into the general market in August because it tested so well.

Pennzoil’s competitors include BP Amoco’s Castrol and Ashland’s Valvoline.

Pennzoil spent about $20 million on media in 2001 and approximately the same amount through October of last year, according to CMR.