Creative Ads

Shell Ad1   

William “Bill” Bernbach, an advertising pioneer once said “Just be sure your advertising is saying something with substance, something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.” (Bernbach, Sawyer, 2004, p.126)  This creative ad campaign brought about by Shell involves the use of 2D as well as 3D mock up surveillance cameras. Firstly, it is Shell’s move to greater transparency and its claim to be the most competitive among the local vehicle fuel market. Secondly, it also portrays a fictional bureau, called the “Shell Price Police.” Like its name implies, the Shell Price Police are the “special authority” which has been brought in to keep a close watch on petrol prices throughout Singapore. Thirdly, the aim of this ad is to convey Shell’s commitment in promoting its competitive petrol prices.   

The mock-up surveillance cameras are attached on top of these bus shelter panels to “monitor” Shell’s competitors’ petrol prices. As such, the ads are placed in strategically chosen bus-stops in order to focus on “rival” petrol stations. This move created a buzz and won itself a media award in 2006. Mr. Teng, marketing manager of Clear Channel Singapore Pte Ltd (the company that manufactures and maintains outdoor bus ads) commented: “Shell’s campaign successfully demonstrated how outdoor can be used for tactical purposes effectively, despite the common notion that outdoor is only ideal for branding messages.” (Clear Channel 2006) 

The creativity of this ad adds humor along with its underlying message and this is possibly one of the reasons why this ad is effective. The camera looks real, but what is amusing is the fact that it is angled at a Mobil station opposite that bus-stop. Using the method of ethos and a slightly humorous tone on the issue of price war, Shell openly persuades its customers that it is adopting this “tab” to stay on top of its competitors. This mission benefits existing as well as new customers. Shell is attempting to take a rational stance through a remarkable communicative effort. (Fowles,J 1996, p.167)

 Bus Ad2 

The position of this ad makes it visible to possibly thousands of commuters. That gives a sizable number of intended target audience and consumers, even those who pump petrol at these competing petrol stations. According to the Singapore Land Transport Statistic in 2006, there were about 245,000 daily traffic moves across the Singapore business district. The ad is visually and aesthetically simple. It’s “concept” of having a dark blue background with white wordings makes it easy to read, making it simple and practical. With its creative use of an additional and unconventional aid (in this case a surveillance camera), it also encourages and induces curiosity. Composition is center justified for the text with a lower third wave line and the Shell logo. There are no photos or pictures which is probably intentional since the object of the advertiser is to bring the public’s attention to the camera. As suggested by Jim Aitchison (1999, chap. 6, pg.196), having a beautiful picture is not an idea. Thousands of ads have beautiful pictures and become beautiful wallpaper.  

The Shell Logo The Shell logo first appeared in 1891 when Far East Company used it as a trademark for exporting kerosene. Thus, it is a big brand company that has been around for more than a century. The emblem is that of a sea shell, which is what the company is called. It was then redesigned by renowned designer Raymond Loewy in 1971 and has been one of world’s most recognized signs. The two central color themes of bright red and yellow were chosen to capture attention and stay fresh and friendly. This attempt produces new connections with consumers. (Fowles,J 1996, p.167)Logo designs taken from  Shell Logo Designs 

The words “SHELL” “PRICE” & “POLICE” Shell is one of the largest petrol stations in Singapore with 46 outlets Island wide. According to Shell, they are committed to a business strategy that generates profits while contributing to the well-being of the planet and its people.  As a major investor in Singapore, it is fully committed to “Sustainable Development”, integrating the three essential elements of sustainability – economic, social and environmental and balancing long and short-term priorities. (Shell 2005) The word “price” refers to cost.  The reason this is an advertisement and not a media publicity is because of price. It achieves better response because price is a strong motivating factor (Hudson, 1994, p.3).

The word “Police” here refers to a symbol of authority. It may be fictitious, but this makes the ad all the more interesting. They have even created a unique golden badge for this reason. The golden badge has a symbolic appeal to the ad. Jacci Howard Bear in about: desktop publishing states: Culture of Gold: Because gold is a precious metal, the color gold is associated with wealth and prosperity.

There is energy in gold. Gold is intimately linked with Divinity, wealth and success. Looking at the ad with Fowles guidelines, surveillance cameras are always a symbol of security (Fowles 1996, p.171). The camera is found at the top of the ad and is part of the entire concept of “policing” the prices found in rival petrol stations. It is an unconventional move requiring meticulous detail. Yet in doing so, the whole concept becomes believable to the unsuspecting eye.

Shell Price Police speaks of a symbol of leadership. It displays Shell as the leading authority in giving customers the best price. Typography elements used are simple and large with sans serif type fonts which I observe is similar to the fonts used in road signages. This makes the ad easy to spot for both the bus commuters as well as those in moving vehicles. An interesting thing to note is that visuals appear fuzzy for vehicles moving at an average speed of 50km/hr or more. So the advertiser was deliberate to make the ad simple.

The background color is BLUE, which is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven. Dark blue represents knowledge, power, integrity, and seriousness as stated in color wheel pro’s website. Additionally, this ad has only 5 words in a big 2-by-1 meter bus-stop ad. The advertiser’s pain-staking effort in setting up the camera and angling it in such a way is to ensure that the message remains clear to the public eye. Overall, I find this ad interesting because its out-of-the-box concept arouses curiosity even for those standing and waiting at the bus-stop. Shell is not afraid to take risks, knowing that they might even offend their competitors.  

This ad breaks the common notion that print ads on buses are only good for branding purposes. When you see the Shell name, you know that you can trust the brand. You read about its strategy to meet rising energy demands and how they can be secure in supplies and still be socially and environmentally responsible. Thus, it is more than branding here. It is about Shell contributing to society and taking care of its customers and people.  In 2004, the price of a full tank of petrol for my car was about sixty Singapore dollars. This year, it cost ninety dollars! That’s 150% increase. If there is any way to save, any consumer will want to know.

The way the ad is done also reveals a little bit of how print adverts are moving into being more interactive with its readers. In this case, the Shell ad has pushed the boundaries of regular, normal ads by using a camera. Looking into the future, we will see more virtual reality and motion capture technology. Action is the key for a better future. Interactivity is the word.

The cover story of Business Week April 2, 2007 speaks of the advertising industry dreaming up uses for motion capture that will literally stop consumers in their tracks by running interactive ads on subways and bus stations.(McConnon, 2007, p.49) For this particular Shell ad, their unusual style of using a camera prop brings us closer to the possibility of interactive ads in the future.  Mass appeal is what this ad is about. It is for everyone that is driving. Everyone wants to save money and have the best deals. Money matters. Work is important. Therefore, having the best deal in town is essential. What we need to understand is how this ad makes the consumer feel.

The “self-surveillance” and word POLICE has other meanings if put into the context of another culture. In most societies, “police” has reference to law and order, crime scene and security. In Singapore, the police have taken a step further to be “your friendly neighborhood watch”. Yet in other less developed societies, “police” may have been part of bureaucracy or corruption. 

The logic here is, if Shell is “consistently watching” out for the consumer, then Shell will give the best petrol price to its consumer. Take a moment to think about it, and you will realize that there is a possibility that it is not true. How many of us actually visit 2-3 petrol stations to look for the cheapest price? So do you trust Shell? That leads me to the next point about relationships.

This ad tries to move Shell closer to the consumers. It is saying – we want you to know that we are doing our best to save money for you, by giving you the best price, by placing a ‘Price Police’ at work.  Just recently, 12th April 2007, an article in Scoop Business News mentioned that Shell had dropped petrol and diesel in New Zealand by 5cpl (Scoop, 2007).

Shell has also been one of the key companies that address social concerns. Their business principles are living out the personal values. And Shell is put across as a brand that is committed to critical values of honesty, integrity and respect for the people. Shell has had, in time pass, created ads to promote it as the petrol with better substance, better mileage, better service, better technology and better maintenance. And these attributes will reflect a greater dependability for Shell products. 

The attempt is made to connect a brand of fuel that is synonymous with the best price using leading technology. Use Shell and the implication will be that you will save money, have better efficiency & maintenance. Shell wants to be viewed as a leader in using the gold badge. Using “self surveillance” does give the ad a cutting edge in technology and a sense of power over its competitors. The way this ad uses text, meanings and how it connects with the audience shows understanding and interactivity as mentioned in O’shaughnessy, Michael and Stadler, Jane (2002, p.71).  I conclude that it is a very good attempt for an advertisement to reach out and connect media in our society.   


Aitchison,J 1999, Cutting Edge Advertising, Pearson Education Asia Pte Ltd, Singapore 

Bernbach W, Sawyer R, NYC 2004, Kiss & Sell, Ava publication SA 

Clear Channel, Accolades for Clear Channel at Singapore Media Awards 2006, viewed 20 May 2007 

Color Wheel Pro, See color theory in action, viewed 20 May 2007

Fowles, Jill 1996, Advertising and popular culture, Deciphering advertisements, London, Sage Hudson, Marian (1994). Chapter 1 ‘The power of the media’, in The media game: an insider’s guide to powerful publicity. Melbourne: Longman 

Jacci Howard Bear, About :desktop publishing, viewed 20 May 2007 

McConnon,A  2007, Business week Magazine, Motion-capture technology has burst out of Hollywood and into businesses from aerospace to advertising, Singapore 

O’Shaughnessy, Micahael and Stadler, Jane 2002, ‘Texts, Meanings, and Audiences’, Media and Society, 2nd edition, South Melbourne : Oxford University

Press Press Release MHA 17 Feb 2005, viewed 20 May 2007<

Scoop Business News, Press release New Zealand,12 April 2007, viewed 20 May 2007, 

Shell Singapore, sustainable development, August 2005, viewed 20 May 2007 

Singapore Land Transport Statistics in brief 2006, viewed 20 May 2007<> 


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