Motor oil is dull. It is a motoring essential, but people do not care about it. It is an "invisible" purchase, often a decision made by the mechanic who services their car. However sometimes motorists are forced to make a choice and, when they do, the objective was to force them to choose Shell Helix.
The trouble is that brand differentiation in the category is extremely limited. All oil brands tend to adopt the same type of cliched, performance-oriented messages, rooted in football and motorsport. To cut through, Shell needed to reach drivers either directly via memorable content, or indirectly via self-proclaimed 'car experts'. These 'experts' are core consumer influencers, they love motorsport and knowing what makes a car (and engine) tick. They are the gatekeepers to the wider driving community, a wider open-to-influence consumer group who have a casual interest in cars and a range of passion points - from extreme sports to outdoor adventures.
Regardless of their level of car knowledge, both groups share a common moment of receptivity: only when preparing for extreme journeys - through adverse weather conditions or ahead of long family trips- do they make sure everything is in order. Shell needed to leverage these insights to become the number one preferred brand among consumers and influencers.
Shell Helix would make itself synonymous with 'extreme' conditions - the moment of consumer receptivity. To show Shell Helix performing in the most demanding conditions, it would construct a 'torture test programme', designed to entertain and educate. It would bring the oil's benefits to life in the toughest conditions.
The solution was Driven to Extremes, a three part TV series designed to showcase the toughest driving challenges ever conceived. Shell would take the car through the roughest, hottest, coldest, and most hazardous roads in the world. Part travelogue, part endurance test, each programme was an acid test for the lifeblood of a car engine, the oil - specifically, Shell Helix. The series would dramatise and educate the target audience about the technical benefits while providing top quality branded entertainment.
To appeal to the wider consumer audience and influencers alike, all three episodes would be presented by dynamic Hollywood A-listers/motor sport professional duos - including Batman star Tom Hardy, Oscar winner Adrien Brody and F1 star Mika Salo. Each 44-minute episode would show Helix performing in the roughest of conditions - from the bitter cold of the Siberian tundra and the scorching heat of the Chinese desert, to the sweltering humidity of the Malaysian jungle.
Shell showcased extreme driving techniques and survival skills, and share insights into the local history and culture of each country visited. It would also partner with Discovery Networks, a key channel for the specific core audience. Known for its high-profile, premium programming, it would maximise the visibility of Shell's unique branded content and elevate the brand.
Shell naturally integrated the brand into high-profile, high quality TV programming and made sure the brand received exposure throughout - via the iconic red & yellow Shell Helix-branded car that braved all three journeys.
In addition to on-air branded bumpers and ad spots surrounding the content on Discovery, the programme was amplified through the Shell Helix YouTube page. This was the first-ever global YouTube page in the category to be available in multiple languages and populated with exclusive digital content. Shell shared behind the scenes footage, celebrity interviews and technical content that influencer auto experts love, specifically seeding content with core auto influencers in 12 core markets to build anticipation.
Shell used interactive video content units to hyper-target core consumers and served rich media experiences to markets not used to receiving dynamic content (due to slow internet speeds). Furthermore customised video playlists were produced based on local preferences. Shell backed up this content with a locally-driven promotional campaign. This allowed the target audience to play an interactive 'Driven to Extremes' Facebook game for a chance to win an Extreme Driving Challenge holiday. Additionally, Shell's on-the-ground events brought extreme conditions to life by placing an 'Extreme Simulator' at Shell Retail stations in Brazil, and launching an 'Extreme Driving School' auto blog promotion in Malaysia.
Shell saw significant increases in all key metrics when comparing consumers exposed to both the programme and digital content with those that had not seen any Driven to Extremes content. In key markets, consumers who saw Shell's content were 50% more likely to say Shell Helix was a unique motor oil brand. They were also 30-40% more likely to purchase Shell Helix and 20% more likely to consider Shell Helix a premium brand.
With 2.2million views on the Shell Helix YouTube channel as a base prior to launch, this figure was doubled in the first month of activation. It has continued to grow and now stands at 6.1million.
Shell generated nearly $5.4m of PR value in the first two weeks of activity, primarily within the online space and among sites of interest to the primary auto influencer media community.
The quality of 'Driven to Extremes' was underlined when Discovery Networks took up the content, not just in the 14 major markets Shell had identified, but in more than 80 territories.
The show has exposed Shell's message to a potential 315million households globally.