Is this the toughest brief in advertising?

The brief for Shell’s flagship fuel brand V-Power 98 came with some unique challenges. How we overcame them to make our biggest TVC yet.

Anyone that has worked on a car account knows how difficult it is to have an original idea, see it through the numerous levels of approval and then execute it well.

Multiply the difficulty by ten, and you’re probably working on a fuel account.

When Sense was briefed by Viva Energy to come up with a new TVC for their flagship brand, Shell V-Power 98, the degree of difficulty was huge.


The brief

For a start, fuel is a product most people never see. You can’t pick it up or hold it. It’s not something you buy through choice: it’s a purchase through necessity. And let’s face it, in terms of category interest fuel is about as low as you can get.

But the product is good. Shell V-Power 98 is a premium, high-octane fuel designed specifically for high performance cars that need a fuel that won’t ignite under their higher compression ratios. Standard 91 octane fuel just won’t cut it.

It also contains special cleaning agents that stop deposits forming around inlet valves in the cylinders, to keep combustion smooth and regular.

The net result is improved engine performance. It’s a product with genuine benefits; they’re just not particularly exciting for most people.

The proposition was simple enough: Shell V-Power 98 improves the efficiency of your engine. The benefit is improved driving performance, but we couldn’t say that because it depends on factors such as the vehicle’s condition, age and driving styles. It may not have the same effect in every car.

Over to you, creative guys. Just make sure the idea reflects the premium nature of the product, okay? Oh, and make it awesome.


The concept

We actually had a few really cool ideas, but finding one that had a ‘premium’ vibe proved tough. Humour didn’t work – neither did analogies. Or, as it turned out, anything that didn’t show a car in motion.

In the end, it was an idea about the science of efficiency that caught our client’s attention: a car driving on a series of markings that were revealed to be a scientific formula for efficiency.

It ticked a lot of boxes. We were showing performance without talking about it; we were talking about efficiency with authority; and there would even be a hint of drama in the reveal.

After ticking a few more boxes (bringing it all back to reality, showing the actual product and showcasing Scott McLaughlin and the Shell V-Power Racing Team car), we finally had script approval.


The result

Production company Airbag and director Jolyon Watkins brought the idea to life. We spent two days shooting the Supercar driving around Jeff’s Shed and Scott (a genuinely nice guy) pulling up at a Shell service station in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

Airbag’s CGI team then spent another couple of months creating the world of science and dealing with the transition to the real world, which ended up looking pretty cool.

Everybody involved – from agency and client side – is delighted with the result, which is one of those warm, fuzzy feelings you don’t get very often in this business.

Released in February, it’s too early to tell how effective the ad will be. But one thing I can say with certainty: there is no more difficult advertising nut to crack than a fuel brief. If you think there is I’d love to hear about it.

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The brief for Shell’s flagship fuel brand V-Power 98 came with some unique challenges. How we overcame them to make our biggest TVC yet.

Peter Milne Head of Copy and Content at Sense
Peter Milne
Head of Copy and Content