press release

Chevron Press Release - Chevron To Unveil Unique New National Advertising Campaign

"Car Characters" Bring America's Cars To Life

SAN FRANCISCO, May 15, 1995 -- Today Chevron is launching a national advertising campaign stemming from America's 40-year love affair with their cars. The new campaign will support the company's national product introduction of new Chevron gasolines with Techron, a new gasoline additive formulation.

Created in conjunction with Young & Rubicam/San Francisco (Y&R), Chevron's long-time advertising agency, the new campaign features animated, claymation-like cars with human personalities talking about the "rigors" of car life and why their engines crave new Chevron gasolines with Techron.


"With Chevron's introduction of an unbeatable new product, we had the opportunity to capitalize on a fantastic new creative approach to our advertising," explained Jim Gordon, Chevron's manager of retail advertising and sales promotion.

"The advertising creative in our petroleum category has recently become more competitive, particularly in the past 18 months," Gordon said. "Our challenge was to develop a campaign unlike anything seen before in our industry while also befitting Chevron's personality and brand image. This led Y&R to look at the unique relationships people have long had with their cars."

Since at least the 1950s, Americans have been in love with their cars. We have often made our cars the mirror image of our own personalities. "In thinking about our approach, we asked ourselves, 'What if the car came to life and it became its owner'?," Y&R creative director Peter Angelos said. "By giving these cars certain personality characteristics that people can recognize and relate to, we can explain the benefits of new Chevron gasolines in a way that is both humorous, educational and fresh," Angelos said.


The inspiration for creating the car characters campaign came from Y&R associate creative director Charlie McQuilkin who, by chance, had been reviewing an Oscar-winning animation film called Creature Comforts, featuring claymation animals talking about their life penned up in a zoo. "The moment I saw the reel, I knew we could apply the concept to cars," McQuilkin said. "I thought, 'Wow, this is it!'"

After an initial review with Chevron, Y&R soon partnered with the creators of the film, Aardman Animations, an Academy Award-winning production company headquartered in Bristol, England. Aardman has received international recognition in the film industry for its uniquely creative approach and for its development of proprietary animation and plasticine modeling technology. The company has won awards at major film festivals throughout the world, and has taken home Oscars for its works Creature Comforts (1990 -- Best Animated Short Film) and The Wrong Trousers (1994 -- Best Animated Short Film). Aardman also created the award-winning music video for Peter Gabriel's 1987 hit song, Sledgehammer.


According to Y&R's Peter Angelos, the toughest part of bringing the car characters to life was finding the right voice to match each car's personality. Because the cars talk and act like normal people, the voices had to sound natural, complete with the pauses, "ums" and "ahs" that naturally pepper everyday American speech patterns. The car character voices had to be chosen -- and recorded -- before Aardman could begin any of their claymation and film work.

-To find the right voices for the car characters, Y&R taped hundreds of people from across the U.S. Instead of giving them a script, all were "interviewed" about what it would be like to be a car and why an engine would want to have new Chevron gasolines with Techron.

"We didn't want to use actors for this type of campaign. Rather we preferred to use real people talking in unrehearsed, natural situations," Angelos said. "The man-on-the-street approach sounds far more believable, and their spontaneity makes the spots fresh and likable. It also creates unexpected opportunities for the animators."


Once the voices were recorded, it was up to the artists at Aardman Animations to perform their modeling magic. Spearheading the car characters project at Aardman were David Sproxton, director of photography, and Peter Lord, the company's director of animation. Where conventional live-action commercials are shot on 35 mm film at 25 frames-per-second, Aardman's proprietary 3-D model animation process -- often simplified to the term "claymation" -- requires stop-action photography, shooting up to 30 individual frames for each second of film. It's an exacting, painstaking process that can take several days just to capture a few seconds of finished film.

"Claymation work is like filming motion pictures in reverse," Sproxton said. "The car character model in each and every frame must be hand-sculpted by the animator to slightly change the car's expression or movement, then the scene is shot by the camera. This process slowly repeats itself one frame at a time. And there's much more to it than changing the form of the mouths. We try to capture eye movements, glances, shrugs, eyebrow raises -- the whole gamut of movements that give people personality. But we're trying to transfer them to cars!"

According to Chevron's Jim Gordon, the public will get its first glimpse of the new car character commercials today when two 15-second teasers air on national television. The first 60-second introductory commercial is scheduled for the evening of Monday, May 22 during prime-time road blocks on a market basis as well as during cable programming and all evening broadcast day-parts. And the first spots featuring talking cars will break on June 5, with other talking car characters to follow over the summer months, added Gordon. In addition to the general market, Chevron's advertising will also cater to the Spanish-language media.

Car character ads will also air on network and cable radio, and illustrations of the various car character personalities will be applied to print media and outdoor billboards throughout Chevron's marketing area. This campaign represents one of the largest media buys in Chevron's history. The car characters theme will also appear on newly installed point-of-sale materials and pump dispenser graphics in each of Chevron's 8,000-plus stations across the country on May 22.

Young & Rubicam/San Francisco is the center of West Coast operations for Young & Rubicam, Inc., and is one of its fastest growing offices. Chevron has been a client of Y&R since 1987.

Chevron is one of the largest marketers of petroleum products in the United States, and is the country's second-largest producer of natural gas. Based on annual revenues, Chevron is the sixth-largest petroleum company in the world. Chevron is headquartered in San Francisco.

More about Techron
Chevron Unveils Techron

Updated: May 1995