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Long association with the Royal Dutch Shell

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

From pages 14, 15 & 16

Extract begins


The above bold claim, made in numerous whole page advertisements in trade magazines, was legitimate. To the best of my knowledge, no company before or since has devised such a wide range of innovative promotional games.

I authored articles about promotional games for magazines such as Marketing Week and have acted as an expert witness in court cases relating to promotional games.

We had business dealings with the major US TV networks. Following negotiations in New York and London with NBC Senior Vice President, Steve Sohmer, I signed an agreement for a joint NBC/Don Marketing project with Ray Timothy, President of NBC Television. Lars H Lenck, President of Don Marketing USA, a former Chevron analyst, was also a signatory to the contract.

We created and supplied on-pack promotions e.g. Cinzano Instant Roulette plus numerous colorful games and contests for breweries, some deliberately designed to spark conversation and debate among pub-goers.

Our gasoline promotions ran at various times on the forecourts of all major petrol brands in the UK and for a short period, we acted as consultants to BP.

However, we became best known for our long association with the Royal Dutch Shell Group, providing a promotional games consultancy service to Shell in the UK and around the world. We devised a variety of trendsetting Shell national promotional campaigns in the 1980′s and early 1990′s. These were all short-term promotions, typically lasting for around 10 weeks.


We began our relationship with Shell in 1981, entering into a joint written agreement in respect of a Shell Make Money game we had devised. It overcame a legal obstacle that had brought to a premature end a successful earlier promotional game with the same name mounted by Shell in 1967. In 1983, Shell launched our Make Money game in the UK. Because of the spectacular success of this award-winning promotion, we mounted Make Money games for Shell in overseas markets.

We devised and supplied a series of subsequent blockbuster promotions for Shell in the UK and overseas, sometimes with a £4.5 million budget per promotion.

The immediate follow-up in the UK was Shell Mastermind, based on a popular BBC TV quiz show known for its challenging questions.

This was followed by Shell Make Merry with a Harrods Christmas fare theme. Six million mince pies, twenty-five thousand Christmas puds plus Wine packs, Gift Packs and ten x £10,000 Harrods shopping sprees were given away as prizes. Because of its novelty, the promotion was the subject of a feature in ITN Channel 4 News on British TV. 

We later created Bruce’s Luck Deal, an “Every Card Can Win” playing card themed scratch card game linked to a popular UK TV personality, Bruce Forsyth. Over 4 million packs of Shell branded playing cards were among the prizes given away in the UK and Ireland.

Our last promotion for Shell was nearly a decade later in 1991. It was a Star Trek themed “Every Card Can Win” scratch-card game involving a distribution of 100 million game cards.

It is fair to say that the first dozen years of the business relationship between Shell and Don Marketing was very successful for both parties. Not only in the UK but around the world.

We enjoyed a mutually beneficial and trusting relationship.

Extracts from the John Donovan ebook ends.


John Donovan, Shell’s nightmare: Genesis

John Donovan, Shell’s nightmare: Süddeutsche Zeitung article

GERMAN TV: John Donovan’s revelations cost Shell billions


How Shell lost its majority stake in Sakhalin II

John Donovan, Group Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell PLC companies

Donovan family relationship with Shell


This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

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