BP Gets Animated

Getting screwed at the gas pump does seem to have one slight upside: oil companies are now flush with money to blow on frivolous ad campaigns, and some of these might be animated. For example, last spring, British Petroleum (BP) spent $35 million on a cartoon campaign that includes three animated spots (watch them below). The design aesthetic of these spots is typical contemporary—loud and generic (‘iconic’ in Pictoplasma speak). On the plus side, the spots do a nice job of utilizing the BP logo and exploring the possibilities of three-dimensional space. The animation was directed by Ian Kovalik at Mekansim. Slate offered a review of the campaign and I’m inclined to agree that nobody really cares about brand loyalty to oil companies today, only which station has the cheapest fuel. The days of Chevron’s talking cars are long gone; there’s little that the price-gouging oil companies can do to make themselves look warm and fuzzy, and it’s certainly not going to happen with a campaign as artifical and contrived as this.

(Thanks, Mike Milo)


  • Chuck R.

    The look kind of goes against what BP has done with their recent identity overhaul. The green “flower” is more complex than any other oil-company logo —supposedly to give it a more organic, earth-friendly feel. they actually “corporatized” the logo to get it to integrate with the animation.

    These spots have a cute jingle, but the kubrik-inspired designs do leave me cold.

    Longing for Chevron Cars? You can still get ‘em. (without Nick Park’s thumbprints.)
    http://www.chevroncars.com/store/chevron-cars-c3.html

  • http://ryuuseipro.deviantart.com John Paul Cassidy

    Chuck R.: I still have one of those Chevron Cars toys from about a decade ago, when Mom and I made a stop at BP for fuel! It’s about 6 inches long and came in a box. The doors are openable, and when you move the car forward, the eyes turn side-to-side!

  • John

    BP’s had a lot of bad PR problems in recent years, including safety problems at a refinery that ended up killing about 10-15 people. They may not be on the radar as much as Exxon after that little Valdez oil spill problem, but the company has spent the past two years trying to cultivate a warm-and-fuzzy/environmentally responsible image. So animated ads are part of that make-over, but of they want to make the public like them, they’d probably be better off if they could go back to the situation in the late 1970s, when BP had the greatest access to non-OPEC oil before deregulation and had the cheapest gas by far in the eastern half of the country.

  • Swinton Scott

    The $35 Million is for buying air time and billboards, and music rights, and famous personallity voices, right? Its not really onscreen. But it gave abunch of guys work animating. Oh wait, in the computer age, it only takes one guy to animate anything that can be imagined. The magic computer box.

  • Andrew

    I saw these on tv a while ago. I thought the design was quite fresh, actually. Maybe that distracted me from the underlying politics, quite clever.

  • http://theillustratedlife.com Brenton

    Does anyone else find it funny that the second ad makes the other stations looks ghetto and BP look nice? Arco (BP) has got to be one of the sketchiest name-brand stations around. They don’t take credit cards, and the last one I was at didn’t even have a squeegee to clean your windows with.

  • Kris

    The song’s cute and bouncy, but I’m turned off by how inorganic the animation is.

    Also the gas pumps look like giant iPods.

    I actually had some brand loyalty before I moved out west this year, since midwest Speedway stations had a rewards program where you could earn free gas. I would drive an extra half mile or so (past BP and Shell stations) to the Speedway. It helped that Speedway was almost always cheaper than those stations, though.

  • http://www.jessica-plummer.com Jessica Plummer

    I just find it creepy that it advertises gasoline as clean, regardless of the steps they are taking to be slightly more environmentally friendly that competitors. The baby spot is pretty funny though.

  • http://beesbuzz.biz/ fluffy

    That first one looks so horribly inept, like something a 12-year-old threw together in Flash.

    The other two are just bad.

  • http://its-a-wrap.blogspot.com hans bacher

    you mean they spent money on these commercials?

  • http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=20670536 RODAN

    For THIRTY FIVE MILLION DOLLARS I’d better get Ariel singing with that damn bird and crab how they never got caught in a BP oil slick… hooray for the animators and their livelihood and art… But those commercials were produced with what percentage of that budget? less than .01% from the looks of it. Just a guess…. But if they were told to just make me a green commercial with this or that music and I need it yesterday!!! I’d say they did a great job.

  • http://stephansolarchive.blogspot.com Stephan

    I don’t like it. And looks a lot like the new Fanta commercial ( which I don’t like either ). XP

  • Fergus Bellsach

    Actually there were 4 or 5 folks animating, and 2 or 3 others doing the lighting and models, with one in-house anim director. (apologies to those i’ve forgotten).

    You’re right – not much of that 35 million is there on the screen (though i can assure you it’s more than .01% :) ) – and most everything you do see was filtered through many layers of direction and management, not to mention the legal department. (for example, did you know that bs&p maintains that any time a child is depicted in an automobile it must be in a harnessed car seat? Kind of restricts your choices.)

    Occassionally one of us would come up with something that would make it through without change or comment, but it was very rare. After all it is advertising, not a student film, and the companies involved have very large experienced marketing departments that seem to know how to sell sh*tloads of gasoline. Animation, well, we’re just the grunts…

    Thanks for the kind comments, and to the rest of you all – animated commercials put money in the bank so you can run off and make little love letters to John K on youtube during your time off. That’s just how the real world works. Sometimes for love, sometimes for money, once in a great while, both at the same time. And really, it was fun making these – we had a great crew, and only one lunch with a roach in it.

  • http://drgrantz.deviantart.com/ revned

    Does anyone believe that this $35 million ad campaign was created to appeal to adults? Does any adult feel compelled to buy gas from BP because of green and yellow Flash animation? Maybe there’s subliminal messages in there I’m not getting (like the [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7idn3PcKBM]Fruity Oaty Bar commercial in Serenity[/url]), or maybe I don’t care because I don’t have a car. But I can’t help but think that for gasoline ads, these are incredibly kid-friendly.

  • Fergus Bellsach

    Good question revned – but isn’t it mostly adults on this site about cartoons?

  • http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=20670536 RODAN

    Okay..perhaps I was a little harsh… Green is good… cheep gas is better, if you live in the city. Working Animators….PRICELESS!