Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Experiential Music Campaign Attracts Millennials

Experiential Music Campaign Attracts Millennials

Molly Soat

Pennzoil Backseat Pass


Getting your first car was once an important, liberating milestone for teens, but now, just 54% bother to get their driver’s licenses by age 18, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Today, members of the millennial and Gen Z generations express themselves through social media feeds and smartphones, not by the make and model of their rides. As a result, they’re less inclined to buy, let alone work on, cars. Motor oil brand Pennzoil, headquartered in Elk Grove Village, Ill., and owned by Shell Oil Co., recognized a need to boost relevance among a demographic that’s more into iTunes than tune-ups. “We’re an oil brand, and it’s a fairly low involvement category from a broad consumer perspective,” says Doug Kooyman, global brand director at Pennzoil. “We’re striving to change brand perception and drive brand preference in a very unique category.” 


Pennzoil, along with its New York-based agency of record MediaCom, partnered with Los Angeles-based music media and events company Live Nation Inc. to create a campaign called Backseat Pass, with the tagline “Motor oil reimagined.” The campaign, which included video, Web and experiential marketing elements, tapped recording artists like OK Go, Teagan and Sarah, Godsmack and Delta Spirit to create unique versions of their own hit songs and were filmed performing and recording in the back of a Pennzoil-branded Durango that drove around Los Angeles over the past year. The performances were filmed and lived on a Pennzoil-branded microsite,, which also promoted a campaign sweepstakes in which one fan won a flight and VIP tickets to a Live Nation festival of their choice. 

“Pennzoil is like most brands: looking at younger consumers, wanting to expand their audience and find new drivers,” says Jeremy Levine, senior vice president of digital sales at Live Nation. “[The campaign] is less about the old school gear head and more about Joe Smith, who drives to work every day and wants to be as efficient as possible.” 

Levine says they also wanted to make sure they hit the broadest base of “younger” consumers as possible, so the team was very thoughtful about the types of musicians featured. “We wanted to have a wide enough appeal that you could be 17 or 40 and think it was interesting content.” 


The campaign ran from October 2014 through October 2015, and coincided with the release of Pennzoil’s Platinum with PurePlus Technology motor oil. The campaign’s microsite featured videos of the performances, a photo gallery, and product information on the Platinum motor oil. Backseat Pass was created through Live Nation’s content marketing arm, and was promoted through a mostly digital ad placement strategy, including social media mentions and ad buys, banner ads on Live Nation’s website, and e-mail promotions. 

Pennzoil has been building a music-based marketing strategy for years, featuring country music star Tim McGraw as a brand ambassador. Kooyman says that while Pennzoil does do marketing in the motorsports space, as most of its competitors do, he sees music-based marketing as an opportunity to reach young, new consumers. “We wanted to play in a space that was an open territory. Data shows that our consumers are listening to a lot of music and going to concerts, so why not capitalize on that in a relevant way for the brand?”


Between July and September 2015, the campaign garnered more than 90 million total impressions across all social media, more than 180,000 microsite impressions, more than a million views of the videos to date, and nearly 80,000 sweepstakes entries. The videos averaged a 27% action rate, meaning viewers clicked through to the campaign microsite or to a Live Nation site after viewing, which exceeded his team’s 20% benchmark goal, according to Kooyman.  

“From a brand perception standpoint, aligning Pennzoil in this way and seeing how it resonated from a consumer and a retailer perspective, this was something that was building awareness for the Pennzoil brand name in the motor oil space,” Levine says. “We’re working with Pennzoil to see where we can take music marketing from here.” 

The campaign is a success thanks to the obvious connection between cars and music, says Dominic Sandifer, president of ad agency and content production firm GreenLight Media & Marketing, where he’s worked on experiential and video projects for clients including Under Armour and Verizon. “I would look at Pennzoil in the automotive category, in general, rather than just motor oil because people who are car enthusiasts exist in every genre, and that goes for entertainers like musicians,” Sandifer says. “Pennzoil is pivoting off of the relationship they have with Tim McGraw and trying to get a different audience to think about their brand and products. It’s an easy jump. It’s smart that Pennzoil is sticking with the music-focused marketing and has identified the fact that there’s an audience that loves music and is interested in cars. They’ve found a unique way to use music as a vehicle to help reach that audience with their message.” 

For more on music in marketing, check out “Music: The Unsung Hero of Advertising” from the October 2015 issue of Marketing News at​