Shell Inks Deal With Car Buff Books

Shell-Car and Driver

When editors at Hachette Filipacchi buff books Road & Track, Car and Driver and Cycle World do road tests of cars, trucks and motorcycles over the next 15 months they won't be filling the tanks with just any gasoline. They will be using Shell nitrogen-enriched gasoline, and the magazines and Shell will be letting readers know it.

The Houston-based division of Royal Dutch Shell Plc has signed a unique deal with the New York-based publishing house that makes Shell "official fuel provider" for the three magazines; the deal includes comprehensive co-branded content and advertising in the magazines and their Web sites' weekly radio broadcasts, which are carried by Radio America. The programs are broadcast via satellite and terrestrially to 400 affiliates.

"Shell, through both their branded gasolines and Pennzoil and Quaker State motor oils (divisions of Shell), has been a regular client of ours," John Driscoll, SVP, chief brand officer, Car and Driver and Road & Track, tells Marketing Daily. "Our discussions during the normal course of business on topics like how diesel, hybrids and enhanced gasolines are gaining momentum led to much deeper relationship across our magazines. But we had never had a media partnership this deep and thorough."



The arrangement also gives Shell access to Hachette's consumer research data (from third-party Web-based survey management firm Vista Studies) garnered from "brand ambassador" panels opining about current ads, trends, and editorial stories.

Shell will run print ads tailored to the three magazines, something Driscoll says most advertisers don't do. "Most talk a good game, but I think when push comes to shove it's expensive to do different creative for different magazines," he says. One ad, to be customized to each book, has a Shell engineer cracking a petrochemistry textbook, grinning at the camera; except the engineer is actually reading Road & Track (or Car and Driver and Cycle World in versions of the ad for the other two magazines), which is sandwiched in the textbook.

Shell also gets its logo with "The Official Fuel of" super on the three magazines' mastheads. Data panels -- call-outs listing parameters and results of vehicle tests -- will have Shell logos and text stating that Shell Nitrogen Enriched Gasoline is the magazine's official fuel.

Driscoll says Car and Driver has a circulation of 1.3 million, Road & Track about 700,000 and Cycle World, 300,000.

"What was extremely important to me was that I can control the gasoline we put in the vehicles," says Driscoll. "And that it be from a national provider. From an editorial standpoint, when I have a logo saying what fuel is in the vehicle, I can guarantee that's what we used." He says that 'til now reviews mentioned only the grade of gasoline used.

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