• 05.08.14

Pennzoil Platinum Projects Its Story Onto Vapor Clouds

Pennzoil’s new product is a motor oil onto which you can project your hopes and dreams–or at least some neat holograms.

Pennzoil Platinum Projects Its Story Onto Vapor Clouds

Pennzoil’s new motor oil, Pennzoil Platinum, is, according to the company, the first motor oil made from natural gas. That’s something the brand has been aggressively touting, first with a massive Mario Kart-style installation at SXSW, and now with a TV campaign highlighting the unique way the motor oil is made.

To capture the innovative nature of the product, JWT Atlanta created a campaign which features a car driving through gaseous vapor clouds that are highlighted with vivid projections that look almost like holograms, something that Creative Director Jeremy Jones realized would only work if they used actual vapor and projections, rather than CGI images.

“We realized that we’d have a lot more control if we did it all on the computer with CGI,” he says. “We even did a CGI test to see what it would would look like if we went that way. But you just couldn’t replicate the nuance and detail that we were able to capture–it didn’t feel as organic. The real stuff, when you saw it in real life, just felt so magical. We thought it would pay off the product more–a lot of research and innovation went into pulling off the first motor oil made from gas.”

To tell the story of Pennzoil Platinum, the company recruited a voice associated with creating products better than anything anyone has made before–and though it’s officially an anonymous voice talent, the artist who narrates the spot definitely sounds a lot like “The One Who Knocks.” While the development of Pennzoil Platinum–or the associated campaign–didn’t leave a trail of ruin and devastation throughout New Mexico, the spots did take a lot of time to make work.

“It took almost a year–between nine and eleven months–to put the campaign together,” Jones says. “We had an initial test that was kind of small-scale, that we did inside a private studio, and then we did two more tests in airplane hangars, to see what it would do in that environment, and to find the right projectors. When we were first testing it, we were using projectors that were too small. But one of the crucial things we found out was that to make it more magical and believable, the camera had to be lined up with the projector at the same focal point. When it did, it worked on that cloud–but if they were slightly off, it distorted the image and you couldn’t tell what it was. We would have never been able to pull it off if we didn’t have all that time and research.”

Jones and JWT Atlanta teamed with Skunk LA and MPC NY to create the spot, which was shot in an environment that–but for the projection–was otherwise pitch black. It all makes for a moody spot for a product that it’s easy not to think too much about.

Behind the scenes

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.