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John Donovan, Shell’s nightmare: Genesis

Extracts from the ebook “John Donovan, Shell’s Nightmare” (now available on Amazon websites globally)

In 1979, our company, Don Marketing supplied promotional games that were used to promote petrol sales on the forecourts of most petrol brands in the UK, including Shell.

In 1981, we moved into a contractual relationship with Shell as a result of a presentation I made at Shell-Mex House in The Strand, the then London HQ of Shell UK Limited.

I put forward a proposal for Shell to launch a legal version of a promotional game called Make Money that Shell had abandoned in the 1960‘s out of concern that it was in breach of UK lottery laws.

We agreed in an exchange of correspondence to share rights to Make Money and we launched the promotion to award-winning spectacular success in 1983. It caught the imagination of the public and the news media.

We were treated like heroes by Shell and supplied Make Money and other promotional games to Shell on an international basis.

The mutually successful relationship ended in acrimony lasting over two decades, with bouts of litigation. The unfortunate hostilities have also involved cloak and dagger activity admitted by Shell.

There is a gallery at the end of some chapters which feature screenshots related to the content of the chapter. Some also contain news reports published about these events. They provide an indication of the degree of media coverage of what was described in one article as a war (Times Diary), and in another as a public feud.

I contend that the overused David v Goliath analogy can be fairly applied to this epic tale.

Extract ends. Further extracts will follow. 

The first High Court Writ that we served on Shell was in respect of a later Shell Make Money game that Shell secretly produced in collusion with another agency without our knowledge or consent. A Shell executive lied about what was going on and declined to even look at the contractual documents. He thought Shell was so rich and all-powerful that I would be too frightened to take Shell on. Worse was to come. The promotional pieces were all insecure. We demonstrated this fact to three Shell lawyers in the presence of our own solicitor. All of the winners could potentially be picked out by forecourt staff. Shell kept the information secret from the motoring public. The fatal flaw in the print security was known by the top executives in the Royal Dutch Shell Group. Every aspect of the promotion was screwed up and the game bombed. Shell settled our claim. So much for Shell’s purported business principles. Honesty, integrity and all the rest of the worthless pledges.

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