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Don Marketing Website Archival Information

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Some Don Marketing Games from the 1980s

COPY OF INFORMATION PUBLISHED ON and “Images File” webpage (with more images added in 2020)

An article published by Prospect Magazine in February 2007 authored by Derek Brower, senior correspondent of Petroleum Economist, provides an overall background to the disputes between Royal Dutch Shell and Alfred Donovan and his son, John.

Rise of the gripe site: How two men and a website humbled one of the oil industry giants

Picture of John Chambers and John Donovan

John Donovan (right) and John Chambers
at Don Marketing Hornchurch offices in 1984
For more photos see Don Marketing Photo File donmarketingphotofile.html

Don Marketing was founded by Alfred Donovan, Bob Donovan, John Donovan and their fondly remembered friend and business partner, chartered accountant, Don Redhead (deceased). Alfred, Bob and John are all retired from commercial activity. John Chambers was managing director during the most successful years of Don Marketing which, following a series of court actions with Shell, ceased trading some years ago.

Alfred was associated with gasoline retailing for over 50 years and had a trading relationship with Shell since 1957. The links commence with an article about one of his garages in Ilford, Essex.

East & Donovan advertorial: The Recorder Thursday 5th November 1964

Below is information and links to various promotions devised by Don Marketing.

Don Marketing Football Pools Promotional Games for Petrol Retailing and Breweries

Would free chances of winning a fortune on the football pools attract more customers on to your forecourt?: Service Station Magazine published in February 1979

HAVE YOUR PETROL SALES SLUMPED?: Service Station Magazine advert 1979

Whitbread “SCOOP THE POOLS” promotion at 1,000 pubs and “Freeline” game supplied to Blue Boar Garage Group 1979/1982

Freeline Gamepieces Print Production: Don Marketing Joint Founder and Director, Bob Donovan with DM Office Manager Valerie Hewitt: 1981 (approx)

Letter from Shell U.K. Oil to John Donovan 3rd June 1981

Interactive TV Games contract signed between Don Marketing and National Broadcasting Company Inc: Signed by John Donovan for DM and Ray Timothy, President of NBC: February 1982 (Included NBC Option)




Tiny print lower left states ©Don Marketing 1981 Space Invaders ™


The Pint Size Guinness Book of Records: Incentive Marketing and Sales Promotion Magazine, March 1983 (Supplied to Guinness by Don Marketing in conjunction with Ad Agency Allen Brady and Marsh)

Don Marketing Christmas Card sent out to clients in the mid-80’s

From left, Roger Sotherton, Don Redhead, John Chambers and John Donovan (Designed by David Waite & Dick Gay, London Advertising Centre)

Incentive Marketing and Sales Promotion Magazine, April 1983

Full page colour advert for Don Marketing

Article on Page 37, “Chambers’ move in promotional games”

John Chambers, sales promotion manager at Allen, Brady and Marsh has become managing director of Don Marketing, one of the world’s leading promotional games companies.

Says Chambers ‘The computer printing and video revolution has opened up spectacular opportunities for new sales promotion techniques. Don Marketing is at the forefront of this new technology and the potential is enormous.’

London-based Don Marketing also has a subsidiary company, Don Marketing (Northern) in Leeds and there are international subsidiaries in California, U.S.A. and Sydney, Australia.

Chambers also joins the boards of these companies. The Australian company is a joint venture between Don Marketing and Fortune Communication Holdings, the major South Pacific advertising group billing around £50m which includes Schofield, Sherbon, Baker Advertising and The Weston Company of Australia.

John Donovan, who takes over as chairman of Don Marketing, said ‘John’s broad experience will strengthen our management team, which is currently working on several UK and international projects. These include a creative assignment for Coca Cola’s Atlanta HQ, and the development of new promotional concepts with NBC television, also in the States.’

Chambers set up ABM’s sales promotion department three years ago, since when he has been responsible for some of Britain’s largest ever promotions, in particular for British Rail and Guinness.

ABM has led the field in showing other top agencies how to coordinate above and below-the-line work and has produced some highly successful campaigns.

Last summer’s Great Guinness Challenge, recently nominated for an ISP award, was developed by Don Marketing and was’ coordinated by Chambers at ABM.

This promotion is believed to have increased sales of draught Guinness by up to 30 per cent in the 22,000 participating pubs and clubs. The current ‘Pint Size Guinness Book of Records’ promotion was the result of a similar successful link-up.

Having started his career with Nestle, Chambers has spent almost twenty years in advertising, marketing and sales promotion and for three years prior to joining ABM he was advertising and promotions services manager of RHM. He will continue his work on the management committee of the ISP, and on the sales promotion sub-committee of CAP. ‘Both committees encourage the highest professional standards in our business – and that has to be worthwhile,’ he says.

Article on pages 46 and 47: “Following in the footsteps of Spot Cash”

Scratching for a win – As a sales promotion technique scratch cards are relatively new on the scene, but technology and imagination point towards a big future. Alan Owens talked to some experts in the field.

Seldom does anything absolutely ‘new’ appear in the field of sales promotions techniques but in 1976 scratch cards appeared in a blaze of publicity.

Now, seven years later, the technique has become totally acceptable and has rightly joined its place in the sales promoter’s armoury alongside such tried and trusted favourites like ‘pence-off,’ coupons and extra product free.

The turning point for the introduction of the technique came following changes in the Lotteries Act and the one of the first big try-outs to capture the public’s imagination was the popular Cashcade, which offered semi-instant wins and the chance to win a major cash prize by sending off winning scratch cards to the organiser.

The technique is an import from the USA, like many other sales promotion techniques, although British companies, such as Don Marketing of Essex, were quick to evolve their own technology.

At first the public was intrigued by the concept of scratch cards and had to learn how to use a technique depending on scratching with a coin or other object. It seems odd to look back and realise that what is totally familiar in the 1980s was somewhat baffling less than a decade ago.

Chris Petersen, a director of one of the leading sales promotion consultancies, Kingsland Lloyd Petersen, is a firm believer in scratch cards as a useful technique.

His company has several drinks accounts and he says that scratch cards are ideal for the pub environment.

‘They are instant and entertaining, that’s what pubs are all about,’ he says.

Petersen is well versed in the technology of scratch cards and points out that the concept is not new. He says that a ‘Spot Cash’ style promotion appeared in the United States during the ‘fifties which invited genteel consumers to splash water on to the card to reveal a ‘winner’ or ‘loser’ mark. Less fastidious consumers found that saliva worked equally well!

Another method used in the same period involved using a household bleach to dissolve the covering over the writing, and yet another was to use a specially provided pencil to reveal invisible ink.

Petersen says his own company had developed its own scratch card technology rather than relying on US resources, for several reasons; the distance for transporting the cards, security and the lead-in cost, plus the uncertainty of currency movements.

‘We design and print ourselves,’ he says. It is simple technology, but you need experience, for example the cards must not rub off in transit, at one time a company produced cards in which the writing could be seen through without scratching off.

‘Basically, you have to know what you are doing.’

A recent, highly successful scratch card promotion was The Great Guinness Challenge’ conceived by Don Marketing for London-based Allen Brady & Marsh and its client Guinness.

At the time Guinness said the promotion was Britain’s biggest-ever sports quiz with cash prizes totalling £50,000 and millions of instant prizes to be won in the 25,000 pubs and clubs taking part. The prize money was subsequently doubled.

The mechanics of the scheme involved players being given a scratch off game card every time they bought a pint of draught Guinness. On every one of the ten million game cards produced there were four separate challenges to the drinker’s sporting knowledge.

Objects of the game were to try and match the answers already given by a panel of independent experts to a series of questions about the sport concerned – boxing, cricket, tennis or football.

Prizes in the challenge at lower levels were instant wins of 20p off the next pint or a new card game. As the questions became more difficult the rewards became larger until contestants had the chance to share in the top prize kitty.

The budget for the promotion was in the region of £1m and Guinness said at the time: ‘It is a game of skill, not a lottery, the player has to use knowledge and judgement to match the experts’ answers.

‘Secondly, because the answers have already been set, every card is a potential jackpot winner.’

Don Marketing is based in Hornchurch, Essex, and is widely recognised as the leader in the scratch card field.

The company offers all aspects of the cards from concept, design, game mechanics and methodology, security (game manufacture and distribution) legalities and prize verification.

The company also offers a video check of prize claims and a camera records the envelope being opened, the numbers and names are magnified for reproduction, identified and recorded with serial claim numbers.

The cards and film are kept under top security conditions.

Roger Sotherton, sales executive, estimates that there were usually a dozen or fewer scratch card promotions operating at any one time in Britain, but forecast an increase for later this year and next.

Don Marketing’s new managing director, John Chambers is a great believer in the technique and places great emphasis on originality, legality and security.

He will not mention names but says that several scratch card-based promotions have failed dismally through lack of security.

A video check for extra security

For example in the past one brewer spent the whole promotional budget in several days because someone discovered that if a piece of cardboard was pierced by a pin and held between

a car’s headlight and the scratch card the win and lose letters were clearly defined because of the light intensity.

But pubs are not the only outlet for scratch card schemes.

For example Imperial Tobacco has taken its Playergames scratchcard competition in John Player Mild Cigars into a second phase.

The stakes are high, a new car each month, and a new series of hundreds of number, word, logic and shape puzzles are being included in five packs of the brand.

In the contest 1,106 prizes are given away each month with first prize of a one litre Metro HLE.

The promotion has been extended until December 30 this year and product group manager, Patrick Stevens says: ‘Playergames has proved a great success with traders and smokers alike and the new series of puzzles is being issued to maintain the momentum.’

Imperial Tobacco moved into scratch card promotions with its famous ‘Spot Cash’ which appeared in John Player King Size, John Player King Size Extra Mild and No 6 King Size in October 1978 and which became the subject of litigation (see Sales Promotion and the Law).

In February 1981 the company’s John Player King Size packets carried a ‘Cash Snooker’ scratch card game with a winning pool of £500,000.

And in April 1981 smokers of John Player Mild Cigars were invited to take part in ‘Playergames’ with the top prizes of three Triumph TR7 cars. ‘The evidence so far is that the trade and consumer interest in the brand is on the increase because of the nature of the promotions,’ says Imp’s Trevor Buckley.

‘We find this is considered as a novel approach in a highly competitive market, because it creates instant interest.’

Selection of Don Marketing Full Page Colour Ads in various magazines including Marketing, Marketing Week and Incentive Marketing & Sales Promotion: between 1983 and 1985

Cinzano Instant Roulette Bottle Label Game

If you’ve gotta lotta bottles…: Don Marketing Cinzano Game advert, Campaign Magazine 30 September 1983

Cinzano roulette could set a trend: Super Marketing 14 October 1983

Label Games: First scratchcard competition on bottle labels is launched: Packaging News November 1983 Article starts on front page, continues on page 4. Separate photograph of Don Marketing MD John Chambers (left) and Chairman John Donovan with Cinzano Instant Roulette poster


CINZANO drinkers could be in for a bonanza this Christmas in a £100,000 prize promotion. A breakthrough, by promotional games specialist, Don Marketing, has created what is claimed to be the first ever scratchcard competition to appear on a bottle label.

Instant Roulette is the name of the game chosen by Cinzano and this could lead the way in a new field of on pack promotions. See page 4 for full details.

Page 4

First scratchcard competition on bottle labels is launched

CINZANO drinkers stand to win a share of a £100,000 prize in what is claimed to be the first ever scratchcard competition to be put on a bottle label.

Although this type of competition has proved to be popular as a promotional medium in many other areas, technical problems have in the past prevented them from actually being used on the packaging.

A new breakthrough, however, by promotional games specialist, Don Marketing, has now made this possible using a card that can be printed on to a back label. The success of this development means that many different products such as pet foods could now carry on pack promotions.

Instant Roulette is the name of the game devised specially for Cinzano and is intended to give a further boost to Cinzano sales in the all important run up period to Christmas. Nick Turnbull, marketing and sales director of Cinzano (UK) says: “Our sales have picked up substantially this summer and this first ever scratchcard competition on a bottle will help sustain that growth.”

However it has taken Don Marketing (43-45 Butts Green Road, Hornchurch, Essex – tel: 01-590 6688) several months to overcome the many technical difficulties involved.

Says John Chambers, managing director of Don Marketing: “With a competition of this type, every card is a potential winner and it is necessary to maintain security so that people cannot see through the card. In the past there has always been a concern that printing these competitions onto paper would be a security risk.”

The company decided to tackle this problem for Cinzano and overcame the security questions by printing on the back and front of the label in such a way as to make it impossible to decipher the game underneath the latex coating. The roulette table on the design obscures the results of the competition and the roulette chips are printed in a tinted black so they cannot be seen through.

The application of the labels also presented a problem since the whole of the rear Cinzano’ labels were gummed to the bottle.

This method of adhesion obviously could not be retained since the scratch off latex material would be ruined. Working with Cinzano engineers, Don Marketing designed the label in such a way that three edges of the labels are gummed leaving a reasonable area on which to print the game and allow the consumer to strip off the label without spoiling the play area.

Several printing operations are involved in the production of the labels, and Don Marketing works closely with specialist printers to supervise the production and supplies the printed labels to Cinzano ready for application.

Circle number: YIl-194

Scratch ‘n’ miff: Marketing Week 14 October 1988

EXTRACT: The first scratch-card promotion to appear on-pack has been one of the most innovative promotions of the past few years. The game, on the back of a Cinzano bottle label, gave consumers the chance of winning a share of £100,000.

No research was available to test consumer and trade reaction and for security reasons it was impractical to test the promotion. But it proved the most successful ever pre-Christmas promotion run by Cinzano, generating immense trade support due to the appeal of the new technique.

Marketing Magazine Cover Story on Guinness 27 October 1983

(Quote from “The verdict on Guinnless” article: “During the advertising gap, between the end of the JWT reign and the start of ABM’s ‘Guinnless’ campaign, sales promotion took on a special importance. One promotion – the ‘Great Guinness Challenge’ scratch card game – was claimed to have boosted sales by up to 30% in participating pubs.” ) The Great Guinness Challenge was devised by Don Marketing.

Fast flowing Don: Marketing Magazine 16 February 1984

Shell Make Money full page advert: Daily Express 21 February 1984

Shell Make Money full page advert: Evening Standard 21 February 1984

Shell is back making money: Incentive Marketing and Sales Promotion March 1984


Shell Re-releases the “Golden Oldie” of the Sixties

Contents Page

Cover Story

Essex speciality print and promotions company Don Marketing has inherited the legendary Shell Make Money promotion which was ‘re-released’ last month. Page 30.

Page 30

A return to the Sixties – an 18 year old legend is back with us again; but times have changed and Don Marketing had to trim the old technique to meet the needs of the more hard-bitten consumers of the 1980s.

Shell is back making money

The 1984 version of the famous Shell Make Money campaign has set alight the battle among the petroleum companies, and could lead to a renewal of the sort of promotional campaigns that were so familiar in the late 1960s.

In those days the petrol majors ran a succession of massive campaigns, most of which were based on collectables. Esso’s World Cup and FA Cup Centenary medals, Texaco’s regimental badges and Cleveland’s historic campaign medals were examples. But Shell’s campaign was certainly the most successful, boosting the company’s petrol sales by a staggering 30 per cent, and becoming a sales promotion legend in the process.

Shell is not expecting its current promotion to equal that sort of achievement.

For one thing, it probably could not cope with the extra gallonage, and for another, the promotional environment has changed a lot since the 1960s. As Shell’s retail advertising and services manager Mike Beach puts it: ‘There is a lot more promotional noise now than there was then, and consumers are rather more hard-bitten than they were.’

Nevertheless, the promotion is on a massive scale, costing Shell more than £lm and involving the distribution of more than 60 million game pieces through more than 2,000 of Shell’s sites. And its attraction to the public, with more than a million prizes and top prizes of £10,000 (100 times bigger than the top prize in 1966) should ensure massive public response.

Like the original game, the 1984 version is based on giving drivers half a note, printed like a banknote, when they visit Shell stations.

If they can match the note with another half collected on a later visit to a Shell forecourt, they win the amount shown on the matching halves.

No purchase is necessary.

Filling station staff will give one game piece per day to the driver of any motor vehicle, including motorcycles.

In 1966 the game caused something of a fever among the public even leading to a spate of ads in the classified columns as people advertised for matching halves.

This time, as well as the top £10,000 prizes, there are others at £1,000, £100, £10, £1 and 5Op.

There are some other important changes in the game, apart from the value of the prizes.

Don Marketing, the Hornchurch based promotional games specialist, has structured a much more sophisticated game piece, involving a high level of technological innovation to remove the risk of fraud – so necessary with the large amounts of money involved.

Don also undertook the massive and complex task of ensuring an even distribution of winning notes – not easy when the numbers are so great that, if the pieces were stacked one on top of each other, the pile would be nine miles high!

The reasoning behind Shell’s surprise move back into promotions is explained by Beach:

‘After so many years of price cutting, the past year has been relatively stable where the majors are concerned, even though some of the minors have continued to cut hard.

‘We hope for a continuing stability in the coming year, and there is clearly some growth in the market. There is an increasing number of cars on the roads and petrol is now a good buy.

‘It takes fewer hours of work to earn the money to pay for a gallon than it did 20 years ago – even though that is not how it is perceived – and cars have better fuel economy.’

At the same time as the market was stabilising, Shell came to the end of a massive programme of rationalisation, refurbishment and conversion to self-service, so that it was in a strong position to handle a big promotion successfully.

‘In this situation’, says Beach, ‘we felt it was important to re-establish the Shell brand, following more than a decade in which we have not promoted it, either above or below the line, other than through price.

‘Our advertising has been purely corporate in nature.’

Beach explains that after so long a gap any promotion had to be a real blockbuster.

‘We looked at collectables, but they were not big enough in impact, and Make Money has the advantage that it is intrinsically ours and there is lots of residual affection for it among the public.

‘We could not find anything better, and we finally accepted the argument Don Marketing had originally put to us in its favour as much as two-and-a-half years ago.’

There are, of course, a number of important differences between the 1966 and 1984 games.

In the first place, where the half note was contained within an envelope in the earlier version, this year it is printed on the inside of the envelope, which represents a big cost saving.

But Don managing director John Chambers lays more emphasis on the improved security of the new version.

He explains that nobody had used a similar type of envelope game for many years, and this meant that its security had not been tested against the much greater sophistication of today’s consumers.

‘We had to be sure that, with all the electronic gadgetry at their disposal, they could not find a way of beating the system.

And with the big increase in the value of the top prizes that was an important consideration. ‘

That is why the game incorporates eight different security devices. For instance, the smaller denomination winners are being paid out on the forecourt (those of £100 and upwards are being handled by Don), and the Shell dealers can check their validity by activating a special fugitive ink incorporated in the note.

And where the big denomination notes are concerned, a special secret code will even make it possible to trace the area of the country in which they were handed out.

The envelope can be opened only by tearing along perforated lines, and, to prevent see-through, special printing techniques were used. The reverse is printed in silver, and the inside front of the envelope incorporates a special design that makes it impervious to light.

Complex mathematics and printing arrangements were necessary to ensure that the right number of winning notes was printed, and that they were distributed in such a way as to ensure that each filling station gets a fair share of winners. With more than 60 million game pieces this called for a high level of expertise.

The printing operation itself was carried out under conditions of tight security.

The plates for the winning half notes were held in the printer’s local bank, and never left the sight of Don Marketing director Don Redhead from the moment they left the bank right up to the moment when the necessary number of halves had been printed and the plates were broken up.

Both Shell and Don Marketing were delighted that a British printer, Dobson and Crowther, was able to do this sophisticated work, even though, at one stage, the threat of a national printing dispute put this in doubt.

Don Marketing chairman John Donovan, who has extensive experience of sourcing print requirements from all over the world, reckons that very few companies could have coped with either the technical requirements or the time pressures of the Shell job.

‘You cannot go to just any printer and expect it to turn the tap on for a job like this,’ he explains.

The promotion is being backed up by a national TV advertising campaign through Ogilvy and Mather that is aimed at reaching 80% of motorists at least five times on average. This is being supported by full pages in the popular national dailies and by a £250,000 campaign on radio, aimed at catching motorists while they are on the road.

During the promotion, there will also be press advertising and a public relations effort announcing the big winners. Presentations will be held on the forecourts of the fillup stations that have given away the big winners, and these events will be supported by local TV and press coverage.

The campaign is being reinforced by an incentive campaign based on Bonusbonds which will be awarded to staff on retail sites. When they payout a prize to a motorist, they write their name on the half note and send it in to the appropriate Shell regional office to take part in a weekly draw.

And, of course all participating sites receive a full pas kit including a poster to mount on a free-standing sign, hose nozzle stickers, stanchion flags, shop door stickers, cash till wobblers, change mats, staff badges and car stickers to give away.

Mike Beach is hoping that, after some limited initial price cutting by competitors, the battle will settle down to a promotional battle rather than a price battle.

He would simply like the best marketer to win, and that promotions will offer a way out of the cripplingly expensive cuts of recent years. The cost of even a major promotion like Make Money is far smaller than taking pence off petrol, and Make Money should bring some fun back to the driver’s life.

Photo Caption: Don Marketing managing director John Chambers with the new Make Money.

London Evening Standard article “the old lady with the right-hand halves” about the “spectacularly” successful Shell Make Money game: 1984

Anatomy of a Shell winner: Campaign Magazine 27 April 1984

Campaign Magazine 27 April 1984

Anatomy of a Shell winner

The inside story of the Shell Make Money promotion. By John Chambers, MD of Don Marketing

Make Money … the game was so successful that Shell had to work hard to maintain supplies to some stations

The Make Money game, which has started a new promotional war among the oil companies, increased Shell’s petrol sales by more than 20 per cent – surpassing all the expectations of the team from Shell, Don Marketing and Ogilvy and Mather which put the promotion together.

Indeed, the game was so successful that Shell had to work hard to maintain supplies to some of its stations. And it was not only the petrol that was in big demand. Such was the clamour for the half-note game pieces, which formed the basis of the promotion, that 150 tons of them were used up.

The original 1966 Make Money promotion was probably the most successful of all time. It became a legend in marketing circles.

According to Shell sales development manager Ken Danson: “The increase in sales, after six weeks of the promotion, was 85 per cent and we ran out of fuel, even though in those days we were still linked with BP and had far more extensive sources of supply than we have now. It almost doubled our market share.” The current campaign, though wildly successful, could never match the 1966 figures. As Danson points out, the previous incarnation was the first of its kind and there were no other petrol promotions running at the time. The 1966 Make Money was immediately followed by Esso’s brilliant tiger tail campaign, and the ensuing promotional battle went on for years.

Shell followed up with man in flight and historic cars coin collections. Then came more blockbuster promotions, including Esso’s World Cup and FA Centenary cup collections, Texaco’s regimental badge replicas and Cleveland’s campaign medals. This spate of promotions ended eventually, not only because the petrol companies ran out of ideas, but also because the campaigns tended to cancel each other out. Stamp trading took over, because it was both easier to handle and more continuous in its effect.

Trading stamps fell out of favour when high rates of inflation meant that, by the time the consumer had collected the required number of stamps to obtain a given product, the number of stamps needed had often doubled. The oil companies, following Tesco’s example, threw them out.

After that, came the oil crises of the 70s, with steep increases in the price of oil and the market thrown into disorder. Danson explains that the industry has been into glut and into famine twice over and, in a situation where supplies were often doubtful, there was little point in trying to promote. In any case, with the severe price competition of recent years, there was no money to spare for either above or below-the-Iine campaigns.

Happily for the petrol companies, the blood baths of the 1980 to 1982 period have been followed by a period of relative price stability. This was helped by a two per cent volume growth last year, the brighter prospects that stem from the increasing number of cars on the road and an increase in the money people have available for spending.

The more optimistic market outlook coincided with Shell’s completion of a multi-million pound refurbishment programme for its filling stations, including rationalisation and conversion to self-service. But, even though the company had maintained its joint leadership of the market with Esso (both have around 20 per cent, followed by BP National at just under 15 per cent and Texaco at eight per cent) without any activity either above or below the line for a decade, Shell decided a year ago that it ought to re-establish the value of its brand.

After such a long layoff, it was felt that any promotion should be really big. It was decided that collectables would not have the necessary impact and Shell was persuaded by us that the right answer was to produce a 1980s version of Make Money.

CAMPAIGN 27 APRIL 1984 Page 39 Associated full-page Don Marketing ad in the same edition of the magazine

The play’s the thing: Marketing 31 May 1984

Shell Press Release for Shell Mastermind Promotion July 1984, plus FULL RULES and Game Piece (Promotion launched Monday 2rd July 1984)

EXTRACT FROM PRESS RELEASE: John Smeddle, Sales Manager, Shell UK Oil said: “The successof Make Money, which we launched in February, is now a matter of record. It increased our trade and helped to change the petrol market from one concentrating almost exclusively on price to one where we could create interest and excitement for the motorist buying petrol at a fair price. “The fact that so many of our competitors followed into national promotions is testimony to the power of a properly structured forecourt game.”

Shell Mastermind POS montage

(John Donovan with Shell Mastermind poster, October 2020)

Shell Mastemind full page advert: London Evening Standard 2 August 1984

Shell Mastermind half page advert: Daily Mirror 27 August 1984

Don Marketing full page ad relating to Shell Mastermind in Marketing Magazine, 6 September 1984

Why games became big business: Campaign Magazine 14 September 1984

Campaign Magazine 14 September 1984


Promotional games … the petrol companies made them the hot marketing tool of 1984, The Times made them the acceptable face of marketing

Why games became big business

The story of a marketing boom. John Chambers, MD of Don Marketing, opens a 27-page report

Chambers … ‘the experts must rise to the challenge of creating new concepts’

Promotional games are undoubtedly the hottest marketing tool of 1984.

When The Times newspaper decided to use an up-market bingo-style game to boost circulation, it was clear that games had finally become the acceptable face of marketing. And they have taken off this year largely because of the decision by Shell and the other major petrol companies to mount an intensive forecourt promotional battle for market share, using games, ranging from Shell’s Make Money to Mobil’s version of the Scrabble board game.

In July, a second round of promotions was initiated by Shell with the Mastermind promotion – a new match-up game developed and structured by us. All these add up to a £30 million injection of spending by the petrol companies.

Last year they spent nothing on such promotions. So, why have promotional games suddenly become such big business?

The answer is that games have been growing in popularity for several years. This is as a consequence of better and more secure printing technology, as well as renewed public interest. The surge of public lotteries operating in the late 1970s whetted the consumer’s appetite.

John Player’s Spot Cash promotion, in 1979, proved just how highly successful promotional games could be in boosting sales. Its success led to a major row with rival cigarette companies, which eventually wound up in the House of Lords.

But what has spurred on the popularity of games in the 1980s is a combination of factors set against a background of recession. Consumers have reacted to the harsh realities of life in a number of ways. They have demanded good value in products and services because of financial stringency, yet have been more critical of the services and products retailers provide. Price cuts are no longer an automatic solution to all marketing problems.

And price cuts can erode a brand’s perceived value. “Value for money” can quickly become “cheap and nasty” in the consumer’s mind. Moreover, price cuts as a marketing option often have the unpleasant effect of rebounding and embroiling consumer product manufacturers and retailers in a vicious price war, causing damaging long-term effects on profit margins and profitability.

Promotional games offer a real alternative. They can be produced for far less than the cost of a price cut, yet can still achieve an improved consumer perception of the brand without damaging its long-term credibility. The attraction of games to the petrol companies is clear, since the millions spent on games pales into insignificance beside the cost of even a small price reduction, on the huge volumes of petrol sold. A full-scale price war at the pumps could cost up to ten times more than the games.

The new generation of skill linked games can initiate real consumer involvement in the promotion, because they demand some genuine thought and effort. They can even involve the whole family and add an entertainment value to the product.

Successful games have three key elements – talkability, play-ability, and heart-stopping effect. Talkability is the infectious word-of-mouth excitement triggered by the launch of a good, stimulating game. Playability is the powerful compulsion to try it over and over again – even after a win. The heart-stopper element is when the consumer, casually playing a game, suddenly realises he is very close to a major prize.

The Great Guinness Challenge had all three elements. It was a sports quiz game which ran in 22,000 pubs in the summer of 1982, with considerable success. Every Guinness buyer was given a game card. They had to establish the predominant qualities of a group of eight sportsmen, who were revealed by scratching off the protective covering.

The gamester had to choose, for example, an expert panel’s ranking in four different areas of eight famous midfield footballers’ ability. Easy with contemporary footballers, but younger fans would know little about Tommy Docherty’s skill at throw-ins.

The game card had four columns, A, B, C and D, and contestants had to find four win symbols out of eight chances in each column. For a column A win, the prize was another free game; for a column B win, 20p off a pint of draught Guinness, and winners in both columns could try their skill in column C, for minor cash prizes. And – this is where the heart-stopper element came in – they then had to choose whether to risk their column C prize by attempting column D, which offered a much larger cash share-out of £30,000.

The game was even more popular than Guinness had hoped. It established interest, created goodwill and is said to have added 30 per cent to sales of draught Guinness.

Putting together a successful promotional game is not easy. There are the security aspects of printing it, the calculations of the likely number of winners – to avoid an embarrassing and potentially fatal liability – and the avoidance of legal pitfalls to be considered. There is also the question of what type of game is best suited to a particular marketing effort. There is one to suit every product or service, although promotional games fall into two main categories. There are the “no purchase necessary” games, where skill is not involved, and the “skill” games which require the competitor to buy a product or service.

The no-skill games of chance promotions have to be offered to all consumers who want to play, irrespective of brand purchase, to avoid falling foul of the lotteries regulations. These types of game have been developed from the instant lottfries run by sports clubs, charities, and local authorities in the-late 1970s, and usually involve a simple scratch card, or winning ticket, enclosed in an envelope.

Most of these game cards are predetermined losers, and there is nothing consumers can do to nfluence their chances of winning a prize. Winning cards are seeded to ensure an even distribution of winners, but also to limit the total pay-out to a specified figure.

They have a limited play value since the game is over in seconds, and the customer is usually a loser.

Interest and enthusiasm tend to evaporate within days with this type of promotional game, with the consequence that game cards are often given away in handfuls. Some can even end up lying on the floor, unplayed.

However, such games do have a traffic building role for retailers of high volume goods or services, such as supermarket chains or petrol stations. They are more attractive to the garage owner or retailer than more complex, with-skill games because it is important that the game is over in seconds, to avoid congestion on the forecourt or at the check-out.

The Shell Make Money promotion sought to combine the advantages of a quick, traffic-building game with playability appeal.

Each visitor to a Shell station – whether or not he or she bought petrol – was given one half of a special banknote, worth from 50p to £10,000, in a sealed envelope. On subsequent visits, other envelopes were collected by customers who won when they collected matching halves which made a complete note.

Thus, repeat traffic was built up, but there were no long delays at forecourts. And motorists were anxious to get as many half-note envelopes as possible.

The first Make Money game, in the mid 1960s, was a runaway success. There were even ads in the classified columns as people advertised for matching halves.

Shell’s decision, in 1984, to return to promotions rather than price cuts, was greeted in a similar blaze of publicity. There was even press comment about the lengths people were prepared to go to find matching halves. So the promotion had talkability.

It also had the heart-stopping element. Motorists who already held £100, £1 ,000 or £10,000 half notes knew that the next envelope could lead to a sizeable win.

While Shell’s game was an exceptional success, the clear trend is towards promotional games of skill. With these, every card is a potential winner. Competitors use their knowledge in relevant subjects, or exercise visual skills, to increase their chances of winning. And even losing gamesters can enjoy playing.

It has been observed that contestants respond to a popular subject with considerable enthusiasm which actually builds through-out the promotion. Some retain losing cards to accumulate knowledge – which can increase participation and interest in the closing weeks of a game.

Regular competitors very often play as a team, and pool their knowledge. Syndicates are sometimes formed to combine effort. In the face of such determined challenges, it is vital that companies offer only a shared pool of, say, £25,000 prize money . Otherwise, if large prizes are guaranteed to all winners, some experienced gamesters may “break” the game and ensure they win every time.

Typhoo Tea, for example, was recently reported as facing a cash payout running into hundreds of thousands of pounds because its
promotional game guaranteed that winners received a £5, £10 or £20 cash prize, rather than a share of a prize amount. Expert competitors, realising this, formed syndicates which bought several thousand packs of tea-bags to enter the games, hoping to recoup their outlay many times over in prize money. The dangers should have been foreseen.

To avoid such disasters, it is advisable to involve a specialist game designer or consultant in the promotion. And, although the establishment of a prize fund pool should eliminate the need for insurance against over redemption, such insurance can usually be relatively cheaply obtained – provided the under-writers have confidence in the games company responsible. And, if the game is insured, it is an indication that it is relatively hazard free, since insurers know the pitfalls that can trap the inexperienced promoter.

A hurriedly withdrawn game can generate almost as much bad publicity as a share-out where each winner receives a derisory share rather than a handsome sum, and is almost as bad as the loss caused by over redemption. Yet many blue-chip companies are prepared to put their money and reputations at risk by using agencies inexperienced in this complex and specialised activity.

The most successful efforts result from close co-operation between games specialists and the client’s advertising or promotional agency. This can ensure a cost effective’ package which includes all elements of advertising, point-of-sale promotion and public relations. The Guinness and Shell games demonstrated this.

Skill games are best used to create maximum brand awareness or extend a customer’s visit.

For example, the Japanese photographic company Konishiroku wanted to boost brand awareness of its Sakura supershot share out” scratchcard game, previously not used in the photographic industry and easy to promote. A game card was given with each film bought. This was a perspective game.

Contestants were shown a shop window with nine dots representing nine Sakura film packs.

This was then compared with the identical window photographed from a different perspective. Contestants were invited to uncover
the nine panes of glass out of a total o f36 panes which would then show the word Sakura if they had correctly judged the new perspective.

If this was achieved without uncovering more or fewer than nine panes, they would win a share of the £25,000 prize pool and qualify for a tie-breaker competition with prizes including an Austin Maestro for the winner.

The promotion, which we developed in co-operation with Marketing Drive, was a success.

130 new retail trade accounts were opened by Konishiroku during it, and sales of Sakura film rose by more than 80 per cent. More than 1.2 million cards were distributed, and 10,000 successful entries were received.

This game highlights the crucial importance of printing techniques for game promotions. As does the Guinness one, for which ten million game cards were printed, and the Shell one which required some 60 million Make Money envelopes.

New techniques have significantly improved the security of printing and the scratch-off materials are virtually impossible to breach, even with the most so-phisticated methods. The choice of game will influence the printing effort involved, but the multiple-choice games necessitate computer printing methods, because every card has to carry a different pattern of winning marks. Advances in printing technology have been so rapid that, earlier this year, Cinzano was able to run a scratch off, instant win game printed on the inside of bottle labels.

Once printed, the game needs to be distributed in such a way as to guarantee security and ensure the maximum impact. Promoters must ensure there are limited opportunities for collusion among participating outlets, and try to spread the winners fairly. The Shell Mastermind game, for example, produces an average of 40,000 winners every day, 15 for each filling station.

So, although 1984 is definitely the year of the game, it is also the year in which promotional games companies must rise to the challenge of creating new and exciting concepts, to satisfy the aroused appetites of enthusiasts who make up an important target market among consumers.

Marketing Magazine Sales Promotion Survey 6 September 1984: Covers Shell Make Money and Mastermind Promotions

EXTRACTS”: So why did ShelI, in February of this year, spark off the first promotional battle in petrol marketing for more than a decade? The answer, so the trade suggests, may have some-thing to do with ShelI wanting to put the squeeze on those minor majors and the smalIer operators. Shell and the other oil majors had become rather shelI-shocked by the bitter price wars of recent years, as marketing men were forced,’ not only to weather fluctuating prices of world oil and currencies, but also to keep an eye on what each competitor was doing.

Over the years, motorists had clearly come to the conclusion that petrol was simply a commodity purchase and there was no reason for brand loyalty. Price became the key factor, and the motoring public was quick to switch its custom to areas where there were many competing filIing stations. But in such a competitive market, and with such smalI operating margins on petrol sales, price wars were simply becoming too expensive.

So, in the latter part of last year, price stability became the dominant feature of the market. However, the majors were stilI vulnerable at the margin to the cheaper prices offered by the smaller operators.

The ShelI ‘game plan’ clearly foresaw that its major rivals would be forced to compete along similar lines, thus cancelling out most of the initial market share gains. However, the company obviously reckoned that the smaller operators would be unable or unwilIing to compete as vigourously on non-price promotions, and would thus lose to the majors.

ShelI, to be fair, had other reasons for wanting to boost market share by promotions rather than by price cutting. It had just completed a massive investment in rationalising, refurbishing, and converting its filIing station outlets to self-service, and needed to boost customer traffic to make the investment payoff. ‘We felt it important to re-establish the Shell brand, following more than a decade in which we had not promoted it, either above or below the line, other than through price,’ points out Beach. ‘The company’s advertising during that time was purely corporate in nature.’


The decision to go for a promotional game had been prompted by the persistence of Don Marketing, the Essex based promotional games company, which had, for more than two years, been pressing on ShelI the potential of a game to boost sales. Any doubts that ShelI may have harboured about the popularity of the game with motorists were quickly dispelIed when the promotion received massive press and television publicity, and sales at many petrol stations soared by more than 25%. game.

Round two, however, is expected to prove a very different affair, with ShelI unlikely to have it alI its own way, as it did at the beginning of round one. At the end of July, ShelI’s new gambit was another promotional game, a sort of ‘son of Make Money’, but this time calIed Mastermind. This game is loosely based on the BBC television series and involves motorists matching up half notes bearing questions and answers to win cash prizes of up to £10,000.

John Chambers of Don Marketing, which was heavily involved in developing and implementing the new game, claims that the question and answer approach ‘is a good way of retaining interest’. He also points out that the new game has a more generous win ratio than the previous ShelI game, with 50% more prizes. The game is due to run until the end of this month or early October, and is being backed up with a £lm national TV and press advertising campaign through Ogilvy and Mather.

Marketing 6 September 1984

Shell Make Merry Harrods themed Scratch card game launched November 1984 (Devised by Don Marketing)

“Shell starts up a new promotion” (Shell Make Merry) Marketing Week 2 November 1984

Shell is starting another round of forecourt hostilities among the oil majors with its third promotion. Called Make Merry, it is launched on November 5. It will cost the company little short of £4m.

The new promotion, again devised by Don Marketing, is offering more than two million prizes, of Christmas food and wine, plus a number of £10,000 shopping sprees at Harrods as top prizes. Based on matching symbols on a scratch-card, it will last to the end of December.

“My impression is the public has become rather blasé about these promotions,” says Philip Stein, head of public relation’s for the Motor Agents Association.

“There aren’t many people now who want a particular brand. “However, I think Shell is out of sight compared to the others when it comes to marketing, and this theme is a very alluring compared to Mastermind, which was too complicated.“

But Mike Beach, Shell’s manager retail advertising services, says: “People are far from tired with promotions, and this is quite a different one, especially as there are instant ‘prizes.”

So far this year, Shell is estimated to have spent about £12m on forecourt promotions, more than any of its competitors. But industry sources reckon the promotions have little impact on market share after 12, weeks from the beginning of the campaign, when share begins to erode.

Shell is advertising the campaign with a ten million leaflet drop and national press cover-age, but there will be no television promotion.

Don Marketing launches duel forecourt attack: Campaign Magazine 2 November 1984

Campaign Magazine 2 November 1984

Don Marketing launches dual forecourt attack

Don Marketing, which specialises in promotional games and con-tests, is launching two major promotions for motorists.

On Monday it launches Make Merry, a Christmas version of the Shell Make Money and Mastermind petrol promotions. Two mil-
lion prizes of Christmas food and wine are on offer with £10,000 Harrods shopping sprees as top prizes. Scratch cards are available
from Shell stations.

At the same time, the Trading Stamp Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Don, is launching Bonus Stamps.

LEARNING THE RIGHT RULES OF THE GAME: Marketing Week 11 October 1985

Promotional games can be a powerful friend to today’s marketer- or a deadly enemy if mishandled. John Donovan picks his way carefully through a potential minefield

Games are one of the most powerful promotional weapons available.

But when they make headlines, it is not always good news – as the Mirror Group, Esso, Asda and Cadbury Typhoo found to their cost recently when their games had to be curtailed or withdrawn. The media take a disproportionate interest in such disasters, often giving them front-page coverage to the exclusion of more important events.

It is still not clear what went wrong with Esso’s Noughts & Crosses game, but reports indicate that too many prizes, big and small, were claimed in the first days of the launch, and a printer’s error is thought to be responsible. The AsdaCash game seemed to have a flaw on the Cashcards, and syndicates of competitors “broke” the Typhoo Cashpot game.

The immediate cost of getting a game wrong can run into millions, but the damage done can be even greater in the long term. A disaster game can cause enormous harm to a brand by tarnishing an image that may have been carefully and expensively built up over many years. In some cases further damage can be done if, for example, claims have to be deferred because of litigation with the game’s suppliers.

The mistakes made in the past ten years in some disaster games are astonishing to a games specialist. For example, there was the quiz game with no game variations, so competitors only had to remove the scratch-off material from one game piece to be able to answer all the questions on the next.

The Mirror was acutely embarrassed when it published an incorrect combination of “called numbers” for its bingo-type game, resulting in a long queue outside its offices one Saturday morning, with thousands thinking they had won a big prize.

Don Marketing’s file is full of such stories, and nearly always the chief cause is a lack of expertise in a complex matter.

After decades of experience, marketers in the US would not dream of relying solely on advertising or promotional agencies to run a promotional game, as happens in the UK.

Instead they or their agencies brief one of the several specialist games companies.

Most disaster games are the result of inexperience and a failure to recognise the important distinction between the specialist printing needed for game pieces and the printing needed for ordinary promotional material. Indeed producing game pieces often needs tighter security than printing currency, because higher denominations are involved.

The security of printing game pieces includes the need to avoid printing too many winners, misregistration and variations in colour and size. See-through and other flaws can result in “winner pick-out” – that is, the identification of winners at any stage before distribution to consumers.

See-through can also enable people to get skill and probability games right every time.

Many other pitfalls must be avoided.

Security has to be a priority at all stages, from the moment the game is created to when the prizes are paid. Taking all these requirements into account, it is often unfair of a promoting company to put the burden of responsibility solely on the print buyer, who is rarely experienced in this specialised work.

It is crucial for the company to be aware of all the potential hazards right from the start. For instance, it is important to know how many outlets there will he and the maximum number of game pieces to be stocked at any one outlet. These figures determine the number of game variations necessary to avoid a breach in the game’s security.

Another vital matter is whether the game will be legal. For example, a game that is deemed to be illegal can result in criminal charges under the Lotteries Act being brought against the directors of the game promoter.

Another requirement is that consumers must be able to understand easily how to play the game. So the game mechanic and play instructions must be unambiguous.

The game mechanic must also be checked to make sure that it does not breach a patent application or a patent that has been granted. Several game techniques are protected in this way in several countries, such as Don Marketing’s Match the Experts.

Even the proposed name for the game should be checked to ensure that it does not infringe a trademark or copyright. Shell’s Mastermind game was approved by the owners of that name, whereas a national newspaper that tried to use Mastermind in its promotion was prevented from doing so at a late and embarrassing stage.

There is a new phenomenon that also has to be considered, particularly in skill games. This is the emergence of professional competitors, syndicates and bureaux in the past two years or so. Many of their names are on Don Marketing’s computer files and they operate in most parts of the country.

Some even advertise in specialist competitors’ magazines, saying that they will buy used game pieces.

This enables them to build up a “library” of the variations of a game so that they can break it. They then advertise that, for £5 and an unused game piece with the person’s name and address written in the appropriate place, they will turn it into a winner and post it to the claims address. There have also been attempts to use computers to break games.

With such people watching for their chance, great care must be taken with skill games to ensure that game breakers are restrained and their influence minimised.

This can be done by using hi-tech printing to produce millions of variations, with built-in security.

A specialist games company can often save a lot of money on printing by structuring the game mechanic and rules so that it is possible to use conventional printing.

For one big game recently, in which every game piece was a potential winner – the most tempting challenge to a would-be game breaker – it was possible to save the client nearly £500,000 on the print costs, which was used to boost prizes and the promotion’s appeal.

The main objective must nevertheless be to ensure that the effort is not worth the reward for any game breaker and this should always be remembered when a game is being developed. For this reason the use of sophisticated printers may be unavoidable. The more advanced offer ink-jet, computer-controlled, hidden imaging, which can generate millions of different game combinations printed on foil-coated stock which cannot be penetrated.

Promotional games are popular because they let consumers know immediately whether they have won and so have an advantage over traditional competitions which most people consider boring and not worth the trouble of entering. Many games have had spectacular results – for instance the Shell Make Money game in 1984, which is claimed to have lifted sales by more than 25 per cent, and the Great Guinness Challenge, said to have boosted sales of draught Guinness by 30 per cent at a time when the brand was not even advertised on TV.

However, the division between success and disaster can be fine. British marketers who want the advantages of promotional games but not the risks to their brand or perhaps even their own jobs should therefore insist on using a specialist games company with a good track record. Similarly the wise executive in either a sales promotion consultancy or an ad agency should think twice before risking his and his client’s reputation – and profits.

John Donovan is chairman of Don Marketing

Picture Caption: Donovan: Disaster games can cause enormous damage to an Image

Picture Caption: Headlines: The media are not slow to pounce when a promotional game turns into an embarrassing disaster


Shell UK “Bruce’s Lucky Deal”, “Every Card Can Win” Scratch Card Game launched May 1985 (Devised by Don Marketing)

Shell UK “Bruce’s Lucky Deal” Daily Mail advert 24 May 1985

Old favourites that never die: Campaign Magazine 14 June 1985

Campaign Magazine 14 June 1985 SALES PROMOTION SPECIAL REPORT

EXTRACT FROM THE ARTICLE: Old favourities that never die

Similarly, Shell’s “Make Money” scheme – which was originally launched in 1966 – was updated last year by promotional games specialist Don Marketing.

Through the use of the latest printing technology, the 1984 version was produced for one-third of the cost of the original promotion.

“We redesigned the game piece so that it formed part of the envelope itself and then used a special camouflage design and security inks on the reverse side to prevent people from seeing through the envelope,” explains John Donovan, chairman of Don Marketing.

“We normally pride ourselves on developing new ideas and concepts – but the ‘Make Money’ scheme had been so successful that we felt it could be used again,” adds Donovan. “It took us four years to persuade Shell to run it again.”

Ironically, Shell’s relaunch of the “Make Money” scheme forced its arch-rival, Esso, to respond by resurrecting another old-style promotion – a free glasses offer which had been enormously successful in the early 1970s. This type of promotion – first launched in 1971 – offers free glasses to
motorists who spend a certain amount on petrol in Esso filling stations. The only change from the old scheme was a reduction in the amount of petrol which had to be bought to qualify for a free giass.

“It was the first time we had used the promotion on any scale since 1973,” explains Esso’s sales promotion manager, Tony Wingrave.

“We started again because Shell fired the first broadside with the relaunch of the ‘Make Money’ promotion and we felt we had to respond with appropriate strength. We decided to launch a free glasses offer again because we know it works for us.”

Irish Shell “Bruce’s Lucky Deal launched August 1985

Don Marketing insider cover colour advert in Advertisers Annual 1986

Marketing Magazine article “Games people play” involving John Donovan: 18 Sept 1986

John Donovan displays Shell Singapore “Make Money” game pieces – a national promotion devised and supplied by his company, Don Marketing. The same promotion was also conducted in the UK and in Ireland. (Enlarged photo from above article)


Scratch ‘n’ miff: Marketing Week 14 October 1988

EXTRACT: The first scratch-card promotion to appear on-pack has been one of the most innovative promotions of the past few years. The game, on the back of a Cinzano bottle label, gave consumers the chance of winning a share of £100,000.

No research was available to test consumer and trade reaction and for security reasons it was impractical to test the promotion. But it proved the most successful ever pre-Christmas promotion run by Cinzano, generating immense trade support due to the appeal of the new technique. Related Don Marketing AdvertIf you’ve gotta lotta bottles…: Campaign Magazine 30 September 1983

John Chambers has left Don Marketing and game cards to set up a new sales promotion operation for the world’s sixth largest ad agency: Promotions & Incentives: February 1986

Shell Star Trek Promotion devised by Don Marketing

Don Marketing proposal to Shell: 13 July, 1990 – proposal shows deal with Paramount Pictures for mega promotion set up by John Donovan before Shell was even aware of the concept. Subsequent fax (exhibited) from Shell UK National Promotions manager Stuart Carson to John Donovan demonstrates the friendly relationship between John Donovan and Shell at that time.

Message on fax cover page from Carson said: “URGENT (warp 10 even if the di-lithium crystals cannot take it Cap’n)”

Shell launches Star Trek scratchcard game: Sales Promotion Magazine March 1991

Shell launches Star Trek scratchcard game

In the wake ‘of Collect & Select, Shell has launched a new scratch card promotion under the banner ‘Star Trek – The Game’. The company claims that its research has shown the popularity of this medium with its instant benefits over long term catalogue promotions.

The Star Trek theme was chosen for its broad appeal and the promotion will also coincide with the 25th anniversary of the television series.

The competition offers over £1.5m in prizes along with family holidays in California and the chance to appear with the Star Trek cast at Universal Studios.

A separate promotion, aimed at HGV drivers is to run alongside offering free audio tapes for every 100 litres of diesel purchased.

The company also plan to relaunch its Air Miles scheme.

Warp factor ten, Captain!: Promotions & Incentives Magazine: June 1991

While Mr Spock wimped out and took off for an easy life in outer space, his father boldly went where no one in the family had gone before – into sales promotion.

Presumably because of his connections, Mr Spock senior and the family dog have ended up working for Shell on their latest forecourt promotion – ‘Star Trek – The Game’.

Well documented in the trade press, this is of course a scratchcard game offering over £I.5m in cash prizes and 15 holidays for four to California. Holiday winners can be filmed live with the Star Trek crew at Universal Studios.

Will Shell’s intergalactic experiment pay off?: Cover story plus coverage on 7 pages with extensive colour pictures: Promotions & Incentives Magazine July-August 1991


Hang on! I’ve got a new idea… …said Don Marketing when the agency sold Shell its idea for the Star Trek promotion, neatly persuading the oil giant to abandon its catalogue scheme promotions. Case study by Anne-Marie Crawford

“Promotions run in a cyclic mode. With our catalogue scheme we had reached the end of the cycle and run into stalemate,” says Alan McNab, national promotions manager at Shell UK.

Hence, faced with a moribund market, Shell decided to change tack and launch its Star Trek game.

Collect and select schemes, points equal prizes, have long been stalwart forecourt promotions among the leading petrol companies. The familiar catalogues from which consumers choose different items when they have collected a certain number of points are almost synonymous with buying petrol.

Of course Shell has run promotional games in the past. These have included ‘Mastermind’, ‘Bruce’s Lucky Deal’ and, probably the most famous of them all, the ‘Make Money’ game, which its creator Don Marketing claimed boosted Shell’s sales by 30%. But these games did not represent a real departure from the long-term loyalty schemes.

Star Trek was different. McNab says it was a vehicle to take Shell away from a period of stagnation and adhering to promotional norms into “a new world of promotions”. But this wasn’t just a whim. Shell had concrete reasons for believing it was time for a change.

Early in 1988, Shell’s then promotional games agency, Don Marketing, carried out research which indicated that although the majority of motorists (51%) favoured collection schemes with a reward, a proportion preferred games because of the thrill of the instant win. Shell also felt that it was locked into a line of promotion it couldn’t vary.

According to Don Marketing’s managing director John Donovan, “It wanted to be flexible and topical where others were not.” McNab also saw it as a problem of sheer dullness: “It was time to inject a bit of excitement back into a stale marketplace.”

Don Marketing presented its findings to Shell with the recommendation that they carry out their own research. Donovan says: “We’re not a market researcher. We’re about promotional games so we’re bound to be a bit biased.” Shell commissioned its own research and came to similar conclusions.

From 1988 until January this year, Shell began winding down Collect and Select and started to work out its brief for the Big Idea which would carry it into the new world of promotions. Its complete change of tack was finally made in the spring of 1990.

Don Marketing and a number of other agencies pitched. Although Don has supplied Shell with all its major promotional games for ten years, the agency is not on a retainer and is expected to jostle for new work with its rivals. A small agency with a small team, Don Marketing works exclusively in promotional games, but it holds its own against more broad-based consultancies.

At this early stage, a number of schemes were bandied about and one idea – not Don Marketing’s – emerged as an outright winner. It was researched by Shell, then tossed back into the pot with other ideas. It still came out on top.

Shell was all set to run with this mystery project when at the last minute licensing problems with a third party arose and plans had to be dropped.

Shell was left with a major problem. It had deliberately steered itself off the Collect and Select course and now it was now stuck without an alternative plan. Don Marketing moved swiftly.

The Idea

Star Trek was Donovan’s idea. It came as he was driving home one evening. “I heard on the radio that the BBC had negotiated some deal with Paramount and was launching the new series of Star Trek. It also had plans to re-release the old 1979 series,” Donovan says. His plan was to use the Star Trek theme as the basis of a promotional scratch card game.

A number of other factors ensured that the idea took root. It was timely, which Shell wanted. Star Trek’s 25th anniversary was approaching and there was a flurry of renewed interest in the series. Sky TV had plans to run the very first series in an early evening slot and CIC Video announced that it was licensed to distribute videos of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Star Trek seemed to have universal appeal (the BBC thought it was worth paying $6m for its package). And as McNab was to say later, “Star Trek embodies a lot of Shell’s own values.” Donovan felt he was on a winner.

Early problems and solutions

Shell was not immediately told about Don Marketing’s Big Idea. The agency still had a lot of ground to cover and it was too early to say whether the scheme could actually work.

The first and potentially most damaging aspect to consider was the likelihood of a lengthy licensing wrangle which, because of the time factor, could have thrown everything out of whack.

In July 1990, Donovan telephoned Ten Marketing, Paramount’s UK licensing agent. Within 24 hours a deal was agreed in principle. The basic tenets never changed. “Ten Marketing’s director of international licensing, Jonathan Zilli, was in London at the time and this definitely speeded things up,” says Donovan. Games are what Don Marketing do best and once it had the licensing go-ahead, it was fairly straightforward for the agency to sit down and think about the game mechanics.

On 13 July 1990, although there were still a host of attendant details to be worked through, Donovan was able to present his basic Star Trek idea to Shell in reasonably final form.

Shell was impressed. Stuart Carson, then Shell’s national promotions coordinator and McNab’s predecessor, set events in motion. Shell agreed a budget of£4.5m to include prizes, advertising, security, printing costs, distribution and fulfilment – each potential headaches in their own right.

Shell was happy with the basic game mechanic which Don Marketing devised. Quite simply it was a scratchcard device featuring faces from the old Star Trek series: scratch off so many characters and win a cash prize. The promotion was to be offered to each of Shell’s 2,700 forecourts with a no-purchase-necessary element. In the event, 2,150 accepted.

Once Don Marketing got the okay from Shell, it took on extra staff, rolled up its sleeves and got down to work. At the height of the promotion, the agency had 15 people working on Star Trek. It wrote the rules, advised on legality, worked out game insurance with Lloyds and decided on the prizes.

These prizes fell into denominations of a £250 000 shareout for uncovering seven Captain Kirks, through £1000, £100 and £5 handouts right down to 50p for four or more Lieutenant Uhuras.

The £5 and 50p wins had to be submitted promptly for verification and redemption at the station where the game card was obtained. Other claims were addressed directly to Don Marketing’s offices in Stowmarket Suffolk.

In addition to the thrill of the instant win, the Star Trek game also combined a collect element, with the chance to win a holiday in California as the incentive. At the bottom of each card was a tear-off strip with one scratch-off portion. Beneath this portion was hidden a character from the new Star Trek series. Collect six and win the holiday.

McNab points out, “The Star Trek game combined a repeat purchase element.” To control the number of winners, Don Marketing seeded one particular new character, Riker, in only intermittently. Consumers kept scratching away in the hope of the trip to Los Angeles.

Everything appeared fairly straight-forward except for one thing: Shell insisted on an every-card-can-win game. An every-card-can-win game throws up a security nightmare. Donovan explains: “It’s to do with the problem of an open-ended prize fund liability. I’ve heard of cases in the States where everyone has ended up winning. Also, one of the first noughts and crosses games run by Esso had to be cancelled on the second day because it produced 20 valid claims for £1 00000.” The legal actions resulting from the Esso case are still dragging on five years later.

Nevertheless, Don Marketing was prepared to take this on board and face legal problems if and when they arose.

Events progress

A key security element was the printer. Don Marketing chose Norton and Wright, part of the Bowater group, because they had worked with them in the past and were impressed.

Ray Henderson, UK sales director at Norton and Wright, says, “Our speciality is game cards and lottery tickets. We actually brought the scratchcard process to Britain in 1976.” Norton and Wright persuaded Alan Roman, Shell’s print manager, to print their game cards on foil-coated board, developed for over-seas markets, which cannot be seen through, even with an X-ray.

Another factor which demanded attention was the game card variables. A scratch card promotion like Star Trek, generates several thousand combinations of characters. Don Marketing had to ensure that, because every card had a winning combination, there was no chance of anyone working out the combinations and winning every time.

Once again, the printers played a major role in making sure this didn’t happen.

The agency sent its gamecard variables on computer disk to Norton and Wright, where everything was verified.

Henderson explains, “We have computerised programmes to check all that. We vetted all the work.” Just to make sure, Don Marketing checked the films manually before millions were printed.

To keep things absolutely watertight, Don Marketing sent a senior member of its team down to the printing plant to seed the prizes, which ensured there was a spread throughout the country. “We wanted to ensure that only one individual knew which boxes contained the major prizes. Because of this process, we could insure against too many winners,” says Donovan. As a final security measure, each prize-winning card had a unique code printed under the “void if removed” panel.

By August 1990, the final checks were done and Star Trek was on the press ready for printing, but the Gulf situation worsened and Shell froze its plans.

In September 1990, Carson left Shell. In the interim his role was filled by Mark Foster, marketing communications manager. Shell took advantage of this breather to carry out further research through Hall Testing. It involved getting consumers to play the game. There were a couple of modifications, but none of the basic tenets was altered.

Around November of 1990, McNab took over as national promotions manager, retail, at Shell. After four months of inactivity, Shell finally decided to press ahead with launch plans for Star Trek.

On 14 December 1990, Norton and Wright got the order to print ready for 11 March 1991. Collect and Select was closed on 14 January 1991 and Shell stopped issuing points on 10 March.

Norton and Wright made its first delivery on 13 and 14 January 1991.

McNab is unwilling to reveal exactly how many cards were printed, although he does say it ran to “tens of millions’.

Soon after the 11 March launch, the advertising campaign began to roll out.
It was confined to press and local radio. Agency Senior King handled the dealer campaign and set up 30 local radio competitions around the promotion.

Don Marketing says there have been over 1000 major prize winners. Although the promotion has been wound up, claims are still trickling in. As a final security measure, Don Marketing has recorded every single claim on video.


Star Trek was scheduled to run for ten weeks, in the event it ran for 12. Shell is currently running an Explore Britain promotion alongside its longer term Air Miles campaign and plans to launch a new promotion on 2 September.

McNab is unforthcoming about Star Trek’s impact on sales. “The promotion was very successful as a vehicle to take us through the closure of Collect and Select. What we’re doing now is the new world of promotions.”

As far as Don Marketing is concerned, Star Trek is the biggest promotional game it has ever produced for Shell UK. It hopes to sell the idea elsewhere.

Shell’s competitors think it won’t be too long before disillusionment sets in.

Sources at BP suggest that Shell will be returning to catalogues at the end of the year. BP claims to have looked closely at the market, but decided to stick with catalogues. It has just relaunched its catalogue to take it more upmarket.

A spokeswoman for Esso says it is happy with its catalogue scheme and has no plans to change. She admits she has heard rumours “outside the company” that Star Trek did not altogether impress. A BP insider says, “Shell has totally misread the market. Catalogues are here to stay.” In the cyclical world of promotions, Shell is probably well prepared for such criticism.

Star Trek: the timetable
12 July 1990 Don Marketing clinches licensing deal
13July 1990 Don Marketing presents its idea to Shell
Summer 1990 Shell accepts: total budget £4.Sm
Summer 1990 2,I50 Shell retailers accept StarTrek
August 1990 Gulf crisis puts printing plans on hold
14 December 1990 Norton and Wright get the go-ahead
11 March 1991 Star Trek is launched

Picture Captions
Donovan: his brief was to be flexible and topical where other oil companies were not
Poster art: Shell retailers plugged the game

Shell Star Trek Promotion: Promotions & Incentives Magazine February 1992

Games supplied to Jet (Conoco)

For Texaco

In pack scratch card game in every packet of Knorr Quik Soup.

The Knorr £100,000 TV Challenge.

New DPP ruling: plain paper entries are ‘legal and acceptable’: Promotions & Incentives Magazine: Article including comment by John Donovan: February 1992

John Donovan, managing director at Don Marketing, a company which specialises in promotional games said: “Don Marketing first contacted the Gaming Board Authority, Scotland Yard and the Home Office about this matter in 1985. Discussions held then have culminated in this decision. It’s unsatisfactory and not what we expected.”

Donovan claimed guidelines were set in 1979 when the now famous Imperial Tobacco Spot Cash promotion went all the way to the High Court and was ruled illegal, even though there were two alternative routes of free entry, according to Donovan. “Following that ruling, we put all our energy into designing skill games. We’re disappointed that after all that, the DPP is changing the law.” Donovan also felt that laws should only be passed following a proper passage through both houses of Parliament. “This is just a policy decision from the Crown Prosecution Services” he said.

According to Donovan, there are still many illegal promotions taking place. He cites a Noel Edmond’s TV programme on Saturday nights, which features a phone-in competition to predict future events. “There is no skill involved, but people are still paying, in effect, with their telephone call,” said Donovan.

National Lottery takes its chances: Promotions & Incentives Magazine April 1992 (Expert comment by John Donovan on awarding of franchise to operate UK National Lottery. Photo caption: “Donovan: who gets the franchise?”)

Is a national lottery necessarily a good thing? Or is it too early in the game to predict a result?

A national lottery looks set to make a reappearance in the UK by 1994, after an absence of 166 years. We find out what the experts think.

John Donovan, Managing director, Don Marketing

“Compare this country with California, which is about the same size as Britain, and it gives some indication of the likely effects of a national lottery here. California has had a state lottery for about ten years and there are now more promotional games running than ever before. Another development has been the move by television networks into promotional activity.

“A National Lottery Board would decide who will have the franchise. The Pools Promoters Association must be very much hoping that they’ll be asked to run the national lottery. I think that’s fairly likely – after all they have the existing organisation and public confidence. But lots of US companies that supply electronic equipment in Europe for lotto-style cards have been lobbying as well.”

Photo caption: Donovan: who gets the franchise?


Picture Caption: Having shelved its Collect & Select promotion, Shell’s 1991 Star Trek scratch card campaign featured the first Star Trek series. It coincided with Star Trek’s 25th anniversary, Paramount launching a new series and BBC screening the original 1979 episodes


But while there may have been a few disasters, there have also been countless successes. John Donovan, managing director of Don Marketing, an agency specialising in promotional games, says he has supplied more than a billion game pieces without any problems. He counts Shell’s Make Money game (said to have raised sales by 25%) and the Great Guinness Challenge (which boosted sales by 30%) among his biggest successes.

Donovan says: “I can’t see anything replacing them. Other techniques have been tried, such as lift-off windows, but people don’t like bits of card falling in their car, and scratch cards are a more secure format.” Don Marketing’s most recent scratch card campaign for Shell is Aqua-Valet, where punters scratch off boxes in columns, winning from 25p off a car wash right up to a free wash.

Shell faces libel threat from Don: Marketing Week 31 March 1994

Sales promotion agency Don Marketing is threatening to sue Shell UK for libel while at the same time circulating the results of a poll it claims to have carried out among Shell retailers.

The two companies are due to meet in court over Don’s accusation that Shell used its ideas in a series of promotions without permission or payment.

Don has sent a letter to Shell from solicitors acting for Don claiming a press release the company issued two weeks ago was defamatory and untrue (MW March 24) and is demanding a retraction.

Among issues covered in the press release was Shell’s application to the court for security for its costs in the event of Don losing the case, to ensure Don will pay Shell’s legal expenses.

But Don also says Shell’s press release amounted to an “unfounded personal attack” on Alfred Donovan, the father of John Donovan the managing director of Don Marketing, who runs the Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group (SCCPG) even though “Shell is aware that Mr Donovan is a 78-year-old ex-regular army, war-disabled pensioner”.

A spokesman for Shell says the company has no plans to retract the press statement.

Picture Caption: Shell: Faces legal threat

Shell struck by writ: Marketing Magazine front page headline article 20 October 1994

Shell struck by writ

Shell: denies claims it has repeatedly used ideas put to it speculatively, and says: “There is no case against us”

By Alex Benady

A sales promotion company is suing Shell UK for over £350,000 for allegedly using its ideas in promotions worth more than £1Om,
without permission or, in some cases, payment.

Don Marketing alleges in the writ issued at the end of Iast month that Shell, with which it has had a 13-year relationship, has
repeatedly used ideas put to it speculatively and in confidence.

Don claims that Shell took its proposal for a promotion provisionally entitled “Hollywood Collection ” and ran it in July under the title “Now Showing”, despite the fact that Don was already involved in two similar disputes with Shell.

John Donovan, managing director of Don UK, said he could not comment on the case because of a confidentiality clause in an earlier arbitration. The claim mentions Shell’s promotional manager Andrew Lazenby and seeks £50,000 for loss of concept fee and a further £150,000 for commission lost on the cost of printed materials.

The writ also mentions the other actions taken by Don against Shell. It says that Don has already served one writ on Shell in April this year concerning a Nintendo promotion which ran in 1993.

And it claims that Shell has paid a “substantial sum in settlement” to Don following a writ issued in April this year concerning a third promotion entitled “Make Money”.

Shell declined to comment on the case other than to say “It’s a long running saga and has been in the hands of legal experts.

We are contesting it because we believe they have no claim against us,” said a company spokesperson.

(We have corrected a misspelling in the article by changing “Dom” to “Don”)



IT HAD TO HAPPEN – although it would be naive to think that it hasn’t happened before because out-of-count settlements have usually kept the quarrel well out of the industry’s gaze. An agency is to sue its client not, as I say, for the first time, but the issue is one that is close to the heart of all marketing consultancies: the agency claims that the client has stolen (let’s not beat about the bush) promotional concepts which were presented by the agency speculatively and confidentially.

The claim, for £350,000, is being made against Shell UK by Don Marketing, a sales promotion agency which alleges that its client of 13 years has repeatedly used the agency’s concepts without permission and sometimes without payment. Exactly how a business relationship can be maintained over this period in these circumstances remains a mystery and whether or not the allegations are proved also remains to be seen but, whatever the outcome, the case will highlight a concern which, although always close at hand, is usually mentioned ‘strictly between you and me’ or ‘off the record’.

The obvious reason for this hushed confidentiality is the difficulty in proving that a promotional concept has a specific ownership. It is impossible to claim ownership of an intellectual property, which is what a promotional concept is, until the concept is first committed to paper as text and supporting graphics – as of course they are when presentations of concepts are made. But in rumours and stories I have listened to about ‘We pitched for this account, didn’t get the business, but our idea was pinched because the campaign idea ran nine months later’, elements of the original were changed which would then make ownership of the concept exceedingly hard to prove – and litigation costing what it does, many a managing director has sagely thought twice about entering the fray however convinced his team may feel that they’ve been ripped off.

I do not know how widespread the rip-off experience is because the majority will keep schrum for fear of losing favour with other potential clients, I would guess that the incidence of client companies knowingly using promotional concepts without acknowledgement or payment must be very small but one important service to the industry made by the Don Marketing v. Shell UK case is that it highlights a widespread concern and it acts as a reminder to all marketers that promotional concepts are not up for grabs.

Shell fails to block agency’s legal action: Incentive Today Magazine January 1995

Shell, it has been claimed, has failed to block a legal action mounted against it by one of its sales promotions agencies, writes Jonathan Bracey-Gibbon. The claim was made by sales promotion agency, Don Marketing, which has issued a writ against Shell for an estimated £350,000 for allegedly using its ideas in promotions worth £lOm without permission, and in some cases, payment.

Don Marketing has alleged that, having presented Shell with a brief called Hollywood Collection, Shell went ahead with the same idea under another name, ‘Now Showing’.

The company, which devised Make Money, has also received a substantial sum in settlement after it issued a writ in April over the re-use of Make Money. The writ also mentions other actions taken by Don against Shell in a working relationship that has lasted 13 years. The claim refers directly to Shell’s former promotions manager, Andrew Lazenby, who was transferred to Shell in The Hague earlier this year and is for £50,000 for loss of concept fee and a further £150,000 for commission lost on the cost of printed materials.

There is due to be a further hearing next month, on 17 February. Shell has said that the hearings so far were part of the ordinary legal proceedings, a further date for which has yet to be confirmed.

‘At this stage it is in the hands of legal experts and as such we cannot comment,’ said a Shell spokesperson.

It is understood that another agency has confirmed to Don Marketing that it too had encountered similar problems with Shell’s promotions department.

Shell ‘legal block fails’ in promotions agency row: Forecourt News January 1995

Text as Incentive Today Jan 1995 article above except for changed headline and no mention of Jonathan Bracey-Gibbon as being the author.

Promotion Wrangle: Forecourt Trader uncovers the background to the legal dispute between Shell (UK) Ltd and promotions company Don Marketing UK (Ltd): January 1995

Forecourt Trader uncovers the background to the legal dispute between Shell (UK) Ltd and promotions company Don Marketing UK (Ltd)

A legal dispute between Don Marketing (UK) Ltd and Shell UK (Ltd) is now spilling out into the public arena following the placing of advertisements in the trade press by Don Marketing, requesting information from Shell dealers.

The following is an attempt by Forecourt Trader to uncover the facts behind the dispute – from both sides.

In total, Don Marketing has issued three High Court writs and a County Court proceeding against Shell, alleging wrongful use of retail promotions developed by Don Marketing. Shell has already settled one of the three writs out of court.

Over 13 years, Don Marketing claims it has devised multi-million pound forecourt promotions for Shell such as Bruce’s Lucky Deal (1986) and a Star Trek game (1991). Problems arose, however, over the development of two further promotions – a Nintendo Game Boy competition (1993) and Make Money (1994).

Where Make Money was concerned, Don Marketing and Shell agreed joint rights when the competition was first introduced in 1983. At that time, Shell partially funded the development of the promotion. The joint rights were still in force for the 1994 project of the same name. According to John Donovan, managing director of Don Marketing, Shell decided to go ahead with the 1994 promotion without Don Marketing’s consent or knowledge, and despite the fact that Andrew Lazenby, Shell’s promotions manager at the time, informed him that the company had no immediate intention of proceeding with the competition.

“I was highly suspicious. I phoned my contact who said the game was in production, so I went back to Shell and asked them if this was the case. I was sent a letter saying there were no plans to run the promotion which would in any way clash with my company’s rights,” said Mr Donovan. “My sources confirmed, however, that the game was definitely going ahead.”

As a result, Don Marketing issued its first High Court writ and threatened to advertise in the trade press warning Shell dealers that legal action would be taken against them if they went ahead with the game.

According to Mr Donovan, Shell apparently then issued an ultimatum to Don Marketing warning it to accept Shell’s settlement offer or else.

“Shell was prepared to run another promotion of its own which had reached an advanced stage of production so we accepted and settled out of court for a substantial sum,” said Mr Donovan.

The Make Money promotion ran between May and June 1994.

A second High Court writ was issued against Shell over a Nintendo Game Boy promotion which ran in June 1993. In February 1993, Don Marketing received a fax from Shell’s Andrew Lazenby which stated that Shell would be back in touch when they had made further progress. Mr Donovan claims he heard nothing further from Shell until, in June 1993, he opened a copy of the Daily Mail and saw an advertisement for the competition.

Shell accepted Don Marketing’s invitation to put the Nintendo dispute to mediation with the objective of settling the dispute amicably. Mr Donovan said that this was done “to gag us from making public our belief that the Make Money game was flawed”.

The mediation meeting took place on July 25, 1994, at Shell Mex House in London.

“The terms were that the mediation would be carried out forthwith and that someone in authority from Shell UK would attend. It took two months to get to mediation and no-one of authority from Shell was present, only their lawyers,” said Mr Donovan.

“They said at the end of the session that their solicitors would be in touch with our solicitors, but on August 30, 1994, we received a letter which said Shell had no offer to make.

“We then issued legal proceedings against Shell for breach of contract in relation to the mediation.”

Writ number three was issued on September 30, 1994, and involved another Don Marketing promotion idea, originally entitled The Hollywood Collection and retitled as Now Showing by Shell.

“We received a fax from Shell saying they would let us know when there was further progress on the project but it was suddenly launched without any credit or payment to Don Marketing,” said Mr Donovan.

Shell UK “categorically denies” the allegations made by Don Marketing and has served defences to each action.

In a written statement, the company said: “Shell is surprised that Mr Donovan of Don Marketing, having initiated proceedings, has chosen the unusual course of publicity to ventilate his allegations. Shell believes that the appropriate forum for resolving this commercial dispute is the legal process currently taking place. Shell UK has complete faith in the strength of its defence and will rely on the Court’s eventual decision. Shell is convinced that the legal process will find all allegations to be ill-founded.”

According to the statement: “Shell agreed to participate in a mediation process to resolve the dispute on terms put forward by, and with a mediator proposed by, Don Marketing. It was agreed that the method, content and conclusions of the mediation would remain confidential so that the court proceedings that are running would not be influenced. Unlike Don Marketing, Shell proposes to honour that agreement.

“Shell UK is sorry that Mr Donovan has not felt confident enough to await the outcome of the legal proceedings which he initiated and which Shell is keen to conclude.”

Sub text: Shell’s Make Money promotion, was followed by other joint ventures between Shell and Don Marketing, such as Bruce’s Lucky Deal and a Star Trek game

Picture Caption: John Donovan (centre), managing director of Don Marketing Ltd, with two colleagues at the launch of the Make Money promotion in 1983

Don Marketing trade ad seeks help of dealers: Marketing Magazine 12 January 1995

Don Marketing trade ad seeks help of dealers

Sales promotion company Don Marketing is publicly appealing to Shell dealers to help provide evidence for legal action against Shell over the company’s use of three of its promotions.

The agency has taken the unusual step of placing a half-page ad in Forecourt Trader asking Shell dealers whether they are “willing to complete a questionnaire which may assist us in our legal actions”.

The ad specified the “Make Money”, “Now Showing” and the “Shell Nintendo Game” promos.

“We want to know whether Shell dealers had made a contribution to the Nintendo and Make Money promotions and whether they would have continued if they had known what we know,” said John Donovan, managing director of Don Marketing.

A writ issued last October by Don Marketing against Shell claimed not only that Shell had wrongfully used Don’s ideas, but also that the Nintendo promotion was “insecure”.

“We are surprised that Don has chosen this unusual course,” said a Shell spokesman.

Marketing Week News 20 January 1995

Don Marketing, the sales promotion company in a legal dispute with Shell UK, is taking an advertisement in Service Station Magazine. The ad asks for people who are concerned about the ethical conduct of Shell to join a Shell corporate conscience pressure group.

Irate Don hits Shell investors: Marketing Week 27 January 1995

Shell UK: Don has issued three writs and a court proceeding alleging wrongful use of retail promotion

By Jon Rees

Shell UK dealers and institutional shareholders have received letters from sales promotion company Don Marketing accusing Shell of a cover-up involving a “flawed” promotion.

Don and Shell are involved in a long-running legal dispute, due to come to court in February. Don has issued three high court writs and county court proceedings against Shell, alleging the wrongful use of retail promotions developed by Don Marketing.

Shell has settled one of the three writs out of court.

Now Don has formed the Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group, put ads in the petrol trade press rallying support from others who have had dealings with the firm and written to institutional investors. Those who have received a letter include the pension fund manager of The Equitable Life Assurance Society, a heavy investor in Shell.

“This pressure group has been formed by more than a dozen individuals and companies owning shares in Shell because of our growing concern about the ethical conduct of Shell UK,” says Alfred Donovan, who founded the group in support of his son John – who runs Don Marketing.

Shell UK says Don initiated the legal proceedings and that it will wait for its day in court.

“Shell UK is sorry Donovan has not felt confident enough to await the outcome of the legal proceedings which he initiated and which Shell is keen to conclude.”



Pressure group to target Shell: Forecourt Trader February 1995

Picture Caption: Don Marketing’s managing director, John Donovan

The protracted legal wranglings between promotions specialist Don Marketing and Shell (UK) have prompted Alfred Donovan, father of Don Marketing’s managing director, John Donovan, to form the Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group, dedicated to changing Shell’s “lack of interest in settling disputes amicably” and the way in which the company controls the flow of information to the people it works with.

The move is an attempt to bring together other interested parties, such as shareholders and dealers, who are “unhappy at the ethical conduct” of the company.

The group claims that it already has “a dozen individuals and companies owning shares in Shell” as members, and that “many [more] are also unhappy”. Mr Donovan senior said that he felt compelled to set up the pressure group after his son found it necessary to issue High Court writs to Shell.

Meanwhile, response to Don Marketing’s advertisement and questionnaire (see January issue) has been encouraging, according to John Donovan. In the questionnaire dealers were asked to state whether they knew that Make Money and other promotions ” … were flawed” and whether they would have continued to run the promotions if they had been made aware of the fact.

“We confirmed to dealers, licensees and other operators, that information would be confidential and the response was very interesting,” said Mr Donovan.

The company and its legal advisors have also prepared a response letter, explaining Don Marketing’s current legal position and elaborating on its allegations against Shell.

The letter is intended for dealers who have replied to the questionnaire, and a copy has been sent to Shell which, according to Mr Donovan, has “until midday [on January 26] to comment on its accuracy”.

It states that forecourt staff could “identify the hidden prizes on a large proportion of the [Nintendo] game leaflets”, and that although this had been pointed out to Shell promotions manager Andrew Lazenby who “accepted the game was open to abuse”, the promotion continued. The letter describes the Make Money promotion as “seriously flawed”.

Commenting on the letter, a Shell spokesman said it was one of many and that Shell “didn’t intend to comment on every single letter from Mr Donovan”.

“A legal process has been initiated in which Shell is participating and the company intends to see the action through court,” he said.

The dispute continues.

Membership Recruitment adverts for SHELL CORPORATE CONSCIENCE PRESSURE GROUP plus seperate questionnaires directed at Shell retailers: Forecourt Trader and Forecourt News February 1995



We have issued a number of High Court Writs against Shell relating to proprietary rights to the following promotions



If willing to complete a questionnaire which may assist us in our legal actions against Shell UK Ltd, please kindly fill in, detach, and return to us your Station details in the panel below. We will then provide you with confidential background information which you may find quite intriguing.

Issued by:

Don Marketing UK Limited

St Andrews Castle

33 St Andrews Street South

Bury St Edmunds

Suffolk IP33 3PH

Tel: 0284′ 388308

Shell Dealer Name: ………………………………….…………………….

Station Name:………………………………………………….……………


Post Code:…………………………………………………………………..

Tel No:……………………………………………………………………….

Membership Recruitment advert


If concerned about the ethical conduct of Shell UK Ltd please join our pressure group. Shell shareholders especially welcome.

Details on a “no obligation” basis. Just fill in and return to us the panel below. All enquiries treated in confidence.

Your Name:…………………………………..


Post Code:……………………………………

Issued by:

Alf Donovan

St Andrews Castle

33 St Andrews St, South,

Bury St Edmunds,

Suffolk IP33 3PH

Tel: 0284 388308

‘Shell knew of flaws in Make Money’: Forecourt News front page article February 1995

‘Shell knew of flaws in Make Money’

Shell was made aware of the major flaw in its Make Money promotion, but went ahead with it anyway, alleges John Donovan of Don Marketing, the agency at the centre of a dispute over stolen promotional ideas.

Donovan says that when Shell relaunched Make Money last year, he presented the company with evidence that the game was flawed and open to fraud by cashiers, evidence which he says he has proof the company accepted.

Shell went ahead with the game, although Shell lawyers, in a letter to Donovan, said, “[Shell] has decided they do not want to take the point any further … The reality of the situation is that there is no advantage to [Shell] by knowing.”

Mr Donovan said “Despite ramifications for Shell dealers and the public, the management preferred to turn a blind eye.”

Subsequent mediation led to a recommendation from Shell’s lawyers for a settlement between the parties, although Shell then
rejected this, and is pursuing the matter through the courts.

Shell, which issued a statement relating to the proceedings at the end of last year saying it was keen to conclude the matter in the courts, now says the Make Money game was ‘secure’.

The two parties had initially agreed not to publicise the case, and all along Shell has refused to comment about the mediation process, the lawyers recommendations or Mr Donovan’s allegations that the process was delayed, saying that it is sticking by the original agreement. Donovan claims Shell was the first to break media silence.

There are also similar allegations surrounding a flawed Nintendo game, which has also led to mediation, which was agreed to subject to a gagging order being put on Mr Donovan.

Meanwhile, Mr Donovan has instituted the Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group in response to the depth of feel-
ing among many Shell retailers about the case.

Marketing Week News 24 February 1995

Don Marketing and oil giant Shell UK’s latest round in their continuing legal battle (MW January 17) was adjourned until April 13 at the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday…

Shell seeks guarantee over costs in Don case: Marketing Week 24 March 1995

In the latest chapter in the long-running legal dispute between Don Marketing and Shell UK (MW February 24), the oil giant has broken its silence by publicly casting doubt on the sales promotion agency’s financial position.

In a statement Shell said it is applying to the court for security for costs in the event of Don losing the case. Shell is asking for £62,000 costs security. Don says it will fight the claim. The application will be heard on April 13 and Don says it will go to the appeal court if it is asked to pay.

“Shell is doing all it can to stop these cases coming to court and using its financial weight against a small firm,” says Don managing director John Donovan.

In a similar vein, Shell says it will not be responding to Don’s invitation to instigate a libel action because it believes the agency would not have the funds to pay costs and compensation.

But Donovan, who readily admits to conducting a publicity campaign against Shell, says the claim is a smokescreen. “The real reason Shell won’t instigate a libel action is that it knows we have evidence to back up everything we have said,” he claims.

The dispute, running since last year, revolves around Don’s accusation that Shell used its ideas in a series of promotions, without permission or payment.

My biggest mistake: Donovan: “buggered” it up big time: Marketing Magazine 30 March 1995

My biggest mistake

John Donovan, Managing Director, Don Marketing

Donovan: “buggered” it up big time

John Donovan, whose lengthy dispute with Shell is set to hit the courtroom in two weeks’ time, wishes he had never got entangled with the oil giant. His second biggest mistake happened back in 1979. “It was the early days of Don Marketing and I was presenting to the American TV networks. I had a breakfast meeting with CBS, followed by a meeting with NBC’s vice-president for advertising, W Watts Biggers, known universally as Buck Biggers.

“When I was ushered into a room packed with the entire NBC board, I got rather flustered and addressed Buck Biggers as Big Buggers. There was a terrible silence, he went scarlet and I could have died. It was a truly dreadful moment. The last I heard of Buck Biggers, he was running his own restaurant just off Cape Cod.”

(The magazine did not get the quote correct. What John Donovan actually said was “Bick Buggers”.)

Shell promotions dispute intensifies: Promotions & Incentives April 1995

Shell: ‘claim will fail’: Incentive Today April 1995

A statement from Shell UK regarding claims by Don Marketing that the petroleum company used two forecourt promotions ‘Nintendo’ and ‘Now Showing’) without its consent, ‘will fail in court’ says Shell.

Shell’s statement has been prompted by a publicity campaign conducted by Don Marketing’s managing director John Donovan and his father Alfred Donovan to highlight the company’s grievances. Despite Shell making the agency an out-of-court settlement of £60,000 over the use-without-consent issue, Alfred Donovan has recently set up a ‘Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group’ to bring attention to what he believes is Shell’s misconduct in relation to several promotions the company has run.

‘There are serious flaws with the “Make Money” promotion,’ says John Donovan, ‘and for this reason we have referred the promotion to the ASA.’ The promotion uses a sealed-envelope mechanic which contains correct and incorrect answers. ‘The winners can easily be identified using a torch and in addition the wrong type of glue has been used on the envelopes which means that forecourt staff can easily unseal and reseal the envelopes,’ says Donovan. Don Marketing owns the joint rights to the promotions.

Shell says Don Marketing ‘has adopted the unusual course of mounting a publicity campaign to ventilate allegations against Shell and its members of staff [… ] Shell is always anxious to resolve disputes amicably whenever possible but in this case sees no alternative but to allow the litigation to take its course.’

In response, John Donovan says: ‘We can prove everything we say.’

Shell row steps up a gear: Forecourt News April 1995

Shell row steps up a gear

The public dispute between Shell and sales promotion agency Don Marketing rolls on with the publication of the results of a survey carried out by the latter’s Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group through a series of advertisements in the press, and a series of public allegations made against Shell and some of its employees.

The SCCPG also claims to have instigated Advertising Standards Authority proceedings against Shell in respect of the original dispute surrounding Make Money promotion.

Following the survey, the SCCPG has accused Shell of deception, theft of ideas and threats, and has challenged the company to take libel action against them.

Although Shell has maintained a low profile on the matter, adhering to a confidentiality agreement between the two parties, it has subsequently issued a forceful statement in response to the SCCPG taunts.

In it, Shell states, “Shell believes the courts are the proper forum for a commercial dispute of this kind, and wishes to see matters resolved there. However, due to the growing number of untrue and often offensive allegations being made about Shell in the campaign, the company feels it appropriate to comment more fully.”

On the accusation of theft of ideas, Shell says, “The allegation is untrue. Don Marketing has no case and the legal actions are being strenuously defended. On the published allegations, Shell says, Don Marketing and the so-called pressure group have repeatedly attempted to goad Shell into issuing proceedings against them for what they are doing. Shell believes that any libel proceedings it brought would be likely to succeed. However, it doubts that Don Marketing and the so-called pressure group would have the funds to pay Shell’s costs and the compensation it would be awarded.”

Copies of the full statement are available from Shell on 01712573247.


STOP PRESS Column: Don Marketing founder Alfred Donovan has issued a libel writ against Shell UK. The writ claims that a Shell statement alleged an “attempt had been made to coerce Shell into settling false claims”.

Shell faces libel action as Don’s founder issues writ: Marketing Week: 21 April 1995

Alfred Donovan, a founder of sales promotion company Don Marketing and the Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group, has issued a writ against Shell UK claiming damages for libel.

This latest twist in the long-running legal wrangle between Don Marketing and Shell comes as the two companies prepare to meet in court over Don’s accusation that Shell used the agency’s ideas in a series of promotions without permission or payment (MW February 24 and March 31).

Among issues covered in the press release at the heart of this latest dispute was Shell’s application to the court for Don Marketing to provide £62,000 security for its costs in the event of Don losing the case. This was to ensure Don will pay Shell’s legal expenses.

The court ruled that Don should provide £10,000 as security to the end of the part of the legal process known as the “discovery stage”.

But Don also says that Shell’s press release amounted to an “unfounded personal attack” on Alfred Donovan, the father of John Donovan who is managing director of Don Marketing.

Shell says it stands by its press release, while Don promises to stage a demonstration at Shell’s AGM next month.

Donovan issues Shell libel writ: Promotions & Incentive Magazine May 1995

Don Marketing founder, Alfred Donovan has issued a High Court writ for libel against Shell UK after it failed to retract a press statement of March 17 of this year (P&I April ’95).

A spokesperson for Shell said, “Shell intends to see matters through in court.”

Don Marketing’s separate legal action over Shell’s Now Showing and Nintendo promotions can now proceed after a Royal Courts of Justice judge ruled that £10,000 would provide adequate security against costs for the discovery stage of the case.

Briefly Column: Forecourt News: Don Marketing, the sales promotion agency engaged in a dispute with Shell over alleged stolen ideas, has issued a writ for libel against Shell following the company’s statement relating to the affair and to Don’s Shell survey. Shell has said it stands by its statement and will contest the action. Forecourt News May 1995


Shell speaks out over Don: Forecourt Trader April 1995

Shell has broken its vow of silence and issued a strongly-worded statement to defend itself against what it sees as “the growing number of untrue and often offensive allegations being made by Don Marketing”.

Shell is defending legal actions which allege that it wrongfully used two forecourt promotions devised by Don Marketing. Previously, the oil company has remained silent, preferring to “resolve the dispute in the courts which Shell believes is the proper forum for a commercial dispute”.

The statement claims that “the allegation is untrue. Don Marketing has no case and the legal actions are being strenuously defended”. Mr Donovan has written to the directors of Shell UK and its parent companies, and plans to write to the company’s shareholders, the President of the Board of Trade and users of the Internet.

Don Marketing also alleges that it plans to produce a book, and has sent a questionnaire to Shell sites in the UK attempting to assemble negative views of Shell. Shell believes these actions are an attempt to sully its reputation with sensationalist allegations in the hope the company will be forced into settling false claims.”

Don Marketing has faxed Shell md David Varney giving him “seven days to retract certain defamatory claims within the statement after which,” said John Donovan, “we will issue libel proceedings”. Shell’s response is steadfast: “What we said is true and accurate.”

Meanwhile Mr Donovan claims that 75 per cent of those who responded to the questionnaire thought Shell ‘unethical incompetent, greedy bathbuns’ against four per cent who chose to describe the company as ‘ethical, reasonable and efficient’.




Affidavit supplied by an independent solicitor (Gross & Co) who supplied an Affidavit verifying the survey results. Includes self-explanatory exhibit and written communications received from Shell dealers: April 1995

(Extract from handwritten note from a Shell Licensee: “I AM NOT AT ALL HAPPY WITH SHELL. I BELIEVE THE CURRENT REGIME IS TOTALLY IMMORAL”: Extract from a letter: “The fickle nature and lack of honour within our negotiations were a shock to our selves company from a large company as Shell obviously is.”)

STOP PRESS: Shell has confirmed that its senior management will hold talks with Don Marketing: Marketing Magazine 25 May 1995

Shell has confirmed that its senior management will hold talks with Don Marketing to resolve legal actions between the two. Don has issued a libel writ, a high-court action and a small-claims case against Shell in a two-year struggle over two disputed promotions.

Don takes its payment fight to Shell’s agm: Marketing Week 26 May 1995

Photo Caption: Shell: Don courts support at agm

Sales promotion agency Don Marketing has carried out its long-standing threat to picket Shell’s annual general meeting (MW January 20), while at the same time also having direct talks with Shell.

The two companies are to meet in court on June 24 over Don’s accusation that Shell used its ideas in a series of promotions without permission or payment.
Representatives from Don handed out leaflets to staff and shareholders at Shell’s agm, headed “A Shell Game: a game of deception”, which suggested questions delegates should raise at the meeting.

During the agm, Alfred Donovan – father of Don Marketing managing director John Donovan – requested a meeting with John Jennings, chairman of Shell transport and trading.

Donovan senior runs the Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group, set up to canvass support among Shell retailers.

The meeting between Donovan and Jennings took place after the agm, though Shell says this does not indicate any change in its position and emphasises that legal action is continuing.

Shell also claims that Donovan asked the company if it would adopt “binding arbitration” schemes to allow disputes to be settled without recourse to legal action.
No one at Don Marketing would comment on the latest moves.


Marketing Week News: John Donovan, of sales promotion agency Don Marketing…: 2 June 1995

John Donovan, of sales promotion agency Don Marketing, says he will have a team picketing Shell’s London headquarters for four days a week distributing a leaflet detailing his company’s grievances against the oil giant (MW May 26).

DAVID DON AND GOLIATH SHELL: EPISODE 3,651: Debrief Newsletter Page 63, June 1995

IT TAKES GUTS and endurance to challenge the might and financial muscle of an opponent like Shell UK Oil and Don Marketing’s John Donovan clearly has both in spades!

The latest episode in this long-running saga of alleged theft of promotional concepts [Debrief, 2-113; 3-14,36,48] has minnow Don picketing Shell’s annual general meeting and handing out leaflets to shareholders and staff.

Meantime, Donovan père managed to persuade the chairman of Shell Transport and Trading, John Jennings, to meet him after the agm, although the court hearing remains set for 24 June.

Marketing Week, 26/5/95

Shell UK and Don Marketing: Marketing Week 8 September 1995

Shell UK and Don Marketing have agreed that the only way to settle their dispute over payment for promotional work will be through the courts. Shell made the announcement after meeting with managing director John Donovan.

Debrief Newsletter: October 1995

Despite meetings between Shell UK Oil and Don Marketing in an attempt to reach settlement in their long-running dispute over alleged theft of promotional concepts (Debrief, 3-63), the parties are agreed on only one point – that the matter should go to court.

Unloveable Shell, the Goddess of Oil The Guardian 15 November 1997

Shell faces High Court battle over Smart Card: Marketing Week front page cover story 16 April 1998

Marketing Week Magazine: Shell in legal row over Smart Card

High Court action by promotional agency Don Marketing could delay national roll-out of scheme

By Tom O’Sullivan

Shell is being sued for allegedly breaching copyright on the concept idea it used to create its Shell Smart Card loyalty programme.

The legal row could further delay the national roll-our of the scheme.

It has been tested in Scotland for the past 12 months and was to have been introduced nationally at the end of last year. However, it was delayed because the ten partners in the scheme, including Dixons, the RAC and Commercial Union, could not agree on a launch date.

The High Court writ was issued last Thursday by the promotional agency Don Marketing. It alleges that the agency first offered the idea for a “multi brand” loyalty scheme to the oil company at a confidential meeting between the agency and Shell on October 23 1989. The idea was further discussed in a letter dated July 24 1990 but at that stage Shell said that it did not want to pursue the Don Marketing concept.

The writ also reveals that Don Marketing had approached both Sainsbury’s and Tesco, among other potential partners, to join a multibrand scheme with Shell in early 1990. Sainsbury’s was an initial member of the Shell Smart Card consortium in 1996 but is not part of the Scottish trial.

The writ says Don Marketing developed the scheme on the basis of attracting market leaders from different sectors as partners. Don Marketing managing director John Donovan has been in talks with Shell for the past 12 months. “It was not obviously our scheme until Shell launched its trial in Scotland,” says Donovan, “that is when we realised it was our scheme.”

Shell denies the legal action will affect the national roll-out. “The claim has been most comprehensively investigated and discussed in correspondence with Mr Donovan,” says a Shell spokeswoman. “Shell is satisfied that it is completely without substance. We now intend to defend vigorously Mr Donovan’s claims in court.”

Don Marketing is claiming multimillion pound damages. Its writ demands an injunction to prevent Shell using the scheme, an admission that the agency’s confidential information was “misused” and that all promotional material credits Don Marketing with originating the scheme.

This legal case is the latest in a series of spats between Shell and Don Marketing. All have been settled out of court with the settlements remaining confidential.

Photograph caption: Shell Smart Card: The legal disagreement could delay national roll-out


Shell card in legal row: Financial Mail on Sunday 19 April 1998

Financial Mail on Sunday 19 April 1998

Shell card in legal row


A COURT battle over a loyalty card scheme could cost oil giant Shell millions of pounds.

Consultant John Donovan, owner of promotional agency Don Marketing, claims the scheme is his brainchild.

Donovan says Shell’s SMART loyalty scheme originates from a concept presented to the company in 1989 by his small agency, which is based in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

He claims to have developed the idea of a multi-brand loyalty scheme using a smartcard, and to have approached supermarkets Tesco and J. Sainsbury on Shell’s behalf.

After five years the concept was turned down. However, Shell launched a loyalty scheme in 1996 which Donovan claims resembles his own. It uses a smartcard and is run in association with nine other companies.

Donovan is seeking compensation through the High Court and expects to receive ‘a multi-million pound settlement’. The action may delay the national introduction of the card scheme.

Shell said: ‘The claim has been most carefully investigated. Shell UK is satisfied it is entirely without substance. We intend to defendously in court.’

Don Marketing booking full-page ads to alert Shell shareholders to its dispute with Shell: Marketing Magazine 23 April 1998

Marketing Magazine 23 April 1998

STOP PRESS COLUMN: Below-the-line agency Don Marketing, which is taking Shell to court over the copyright of the Shell Smart Card, is booking full-page ads in newspapers over the next two weekends to alert Shell shareholders to its dispute with the company. The ads will direct people to a specially set-up Web site, on which the agency has posted full details of its claim that Shell stole its ideas for the loyalty scheme.

High Court papers unveil ‘secret’ Shell writ losses: Marketing Week 23 April 1998

High Court papers unveil ’secret’ Shell writ losses

By Tom O’Sullivan

High Court papers have revealed that Shell has already lost three copyright battles with the promotional agency that issued a High Court writ against it two weeks ago.
The details of the out-of-court settlements have, until now, remained secret as part of the agreement reached by the two sides.

In its latest legal action, Don Marketing is suing Shell for allegedly breaching its copyright on the concept idea used to create Shell’s Smart card loyalty scheme, which is being tested in Scotland.

All three previous cases hinged on the same claim of infringement.

Additional papers, lodged with the High Court writ, show that in 1996, Shell settled two cases brought by Don Marketing “on terms favourable to the plaintiff’. In both cases, one a Nintendo-themed promotion, the other a Hollywood-themed promotion, the agency claimed that Shell had used its ideas, given in confidence in 1992, without either crediting the agency or paying for such use.

In a third case, Shell paid “a substantial sum” to settle a legal action in April 1994. It resulted from the re-use of the “Make Money” promotion, which Don Marketing first ran for Shell in 1981.

Don Marketing is demanding a multimillion pound settlement in the Smart case. But Shell, which has 14 days after the writ’s issue to respond, says: “We are filing a defence and possibly a counter claim.”

News Analysis, page21

Photograph Caption: ‘Make Money’: Shell had to pay a ’substantial sum’ in settlement
Pages 21 & 22: NEWS ANALYSIS

Shell action fuels copyright conflict

Don Marketing’s latest High Court writ against Shell is its fourth since 1992.

All have been settled out of court but for the first time we reveal the details of cases which place the spotlight on intellectual copyright.

By Tom O’Sullivan

Shell has already lost three copyright battles in the past four years with the promotional agency which issued a High Court writ against the company two weeks ago (MW April 16).

In its latest legal action Don Marketing claims Shell’s Smart card scheme, which is on trial in Scotland, is based on a “multibrand loyalty programme” which it first developed and proposed to Shell in October 1989.

But now the details of three similar cases of ownership of intellectual copyright have emerged as “similar fact evidence” in its latest claim. Don Marketing clearly hopes that the details will support its claim but it is also hoping to embarrass the oil company.

The details of the three cases, all of which were settled out of court and stretch back six years, have always been kept secret. But additional information contained in the High Court writ issued on April 9, but only publicly available at the end of last week, includes the result of the three actions which also revolved around ownership of promotional ideas.

The first case dates from June 4 1992. Don Marketing claims that in a meeting with Shell’s then promotional manager Andrew Lazenby it proposed a Nintendo-themed forecourt promotion. In 1993 Shell launched its own Nintendo-themed promotion and Don Marketing responded with a legal claim that the scheme was based on its confidential proposal.

According to the information contained in the latest writ the case was settled “on terms favourable to the plaintiff’, Don Marketing, in 1996. A second case, also brought in 1994, was settled at the same time and on the same terms according to the writ.

This second case involved a Hollywood-themed promotion. Again the writ claims details of the promotion idea were first revealed to Andrew Lazenby in a meeting on November 24 1992 for a scheme under the proposed title of “The Hollywood Collection”. In 1994 Shell launched a promotion called “Now Showing the collector card” and again Don Marketing started legal action claiming its confidential information had been used without its permission.

The third case involves the “Make Money” promotion which ran in 1994. An earlier incarnation of Don Marketing, called DMML, devised a forerunner to the Make Money scheme in 1981. It was agreed that the scheme would be jointly owned by Shell and DMML and the oil company gave an undertaking that if the scheme was re-run, Don Marketing would be automatically involved. The scheme was re-run in 1994.

But Don Marketing was neither involved nor paid for its previous involvement.

Again it resorted to a legal action, issuing a writ on April 6 1994. Shell settled the case on April 18 1994 and paid what is described in the latest action as a “substantial amount of money”. In return Don Marketing relinquished its rights to the Make Money concept.

No compensation figures are given for any of the out-of-court settlements but in the Hollywood case Don Marketing is believed to have received more than £200,000 in settlement.

The three cases were all for short-term promotions. The Smart programme is seen as a long-term investment by Shell. More importantly, the legal row could further delay the national roll-out of the scheme which was scheduled for the end of last year.

Officially it was delayed because the ten partners in the scheme, including Dixons, the RAC and Commercial Union, could not agree a launch date. Advertising for the scheme in Scotland was devised by M&C Saatchi. Its chairman Lord Saatchi has often been credited with bringing the partners in the Smart consortium together.

But Don Marketing claims the idea for a “multi brand” loyalty scheme was first offered to the oil company at a confidential meeting between the agency and Shell on October 23 1989. The High Court claim also reveals that Don Marketing had approached both Sainsbury’s and Tesco, among other potential partners, to join a multibrand scheme with Shell in early 1990.

Sainsbury’s was an initial member of the Shell Smart consortium in 1996 but is not part of the Scottish trial.

The oil company has 14 days after the writ was issued to respond to the High Court action and is acutely aware that its Annual General Meeting on May 8 will be used by Don Marketing managing director John Donovan as an opportunity to increase pressure on the oil company.

A Shell spokesman says: “We will be filing a defence and may possibly look at a counter claim.”

Don Marketing’s solicitor Richard Woodman denies that the latest High Court writ is an attempt to embarrass Shell into an out-of-court settlement. But it raises the issue of ownership of ideas and concepts. If the case makes it to court it could provide a useful precedent for all those who believe companies have used their ideas without permission. •

Photograph caption: Smart: National roll-out delayed


Don Marketing’s account of alleged events outlined in High Court writ Arthur John Donovan v Shell UK Ltd (April 9 1998)

October 23 1989 – Meeting between Don Marketing’s representative Roger Sotherton and the then Shell promotional manager Paul King at Shell-Mex House. Don Marketing’s multibrand loyalty scheme detailed in a document, “A presentation of promotional ideas to Shell UK Oil”, presented at this meeting. A copy of the document, marked “strictly confidential”, left with Paul King. Between October 1989 and July 1990 further conversations between Sotherton, King and two other Shell employees Tim Hannigan and its then national promotions co-ordinator Stuart Carson about the concept.

July 24 1990 – Letter sent by Sotherton to Brian Horton at J Sainsbury including the details of the multibrand concept and an invitation for the supermarket chain to join any future scheme. At the same time Don Marketing granted Shell an exclusive first option on the multi brand loyalty scheme. But Shell decided nor to pursue the concept “at this time”.

May 12 1992 – Don Marketing managing director John Donovan and Sotherton met with Shell promotional manager Andrew Lazenby and proposed a multi-brand promotional game known as “Mega-match”. At the meeting Don Marketing again revealed its multi-brand loyalty programme idea.

May 14 1992 – Don Marketing gave a copy of the 1989 document, “A presentation of promotional ideas to Shell UK Oil”, to Lazenby.

November 24 1992 – Don Marketing revealed further details of the proposed scheme and how it could use plastic swipe cards, and that a “smart card” could capture data and handle financial transactions as well as processing the promotional “currency”, or redemption.

April 18 1994 Don Marketing wins damages from Shell in an out of court settlement brought over the oil company’s “Make Money” promotion.

July 1996 – Don Marketing alerted to Shell’s plans for a smart card consortium by articles in The Sunday Times and Marketing Week.

October 1996 – Two further actions brought by Don Marketing against Shell settled out of court” on terms favourable to the plaintiff’.

April 1997 – Shell launches a Scottish trial of its smart card with advertising through M&C Saatchi.0

April 9 1998 – High Court writ issued against Shell UK alleging copyright infringement.

Graphics caption: Shell Smart: Don alleges copyright infringement


SHELL HIT BY MULTI-MILLION WRIT: Announcement in Financial Mail on Sunday 26 April 1998

SHELL HIT BY MULTI-MILLION WRIT: Announcement in Sunday Times 26 April 1998

Shell hit by 2nd High Court Writ: Announcement in the Sunday Times 3 May 1998

SHELL HIT BY 2nd HIGH COURT WRIT: Financial Mail on Sunday 3 May 1998

SHELL SHOCK: Oil giant Shell hit by Multi-million litigation – see Time Magazine 8 March 1999

Shell reveals plans for challenging Smart writ: Marketing Week 30 April 1998

By Tom O’Sullivan

Shell has revealed confidential details of the defence it will use against a High Court writ alleging it failed to pay to credit a sales promotion agency for the idea of the Shell Smart card loyalty programme.

Don Marketing has issued the writ over the disputed idea dating back to 1989, together with a further writ, issued last Friday, claiming that its managing director John Donovan has been defamed in a Shell press statement (MW April 16 and 23).

Shell’s defence claims that an internal project called “Onyx” which began in October/November 1991 created the loyalty programme now known as Smart.

Shell’s solicitors DJ Freeman also claim in a document written in June 1997 that elements of the Smart idea were public prior to the 1989 meeting with Don Marketing, that they were first developed by Shell as part of an internal project called “Nova” in 1987 and that there were talks with other agencies going on at the same time.

The first Don Marketing writ claims that one of the members of Shell’s Onyx team, Tim Hannagan, had a discussion with Don Marketing about a possible multi brand loyalty scheme as early as 1990.

Shell UK retail development manager Mike Harle says: “It is completely untrue and we intend to prove in the courts that the idea of multi-retailer marketing programme using smart card technology was not Don Marketing’s idea.

“It was merely the result of work Shell had done internally and in collaboration with other promotions agencies.”

But John Donovan says the agency has looked at the claims surrounding Nova and Onyx: “I am the one who started this ball (the Smart concept) rolling and have the evidence to prove it. Why would I, or anybody else, write ‘confidential’ on the top of a document (in October 1989) if the idea was already in the public domain?”

Don Marketing’s second writ alleges that last week a Shell press statement defamed Donovan. It seeks damages and an injunction to prevent Shell from making further claims about him.

Shell says the press statement was “defending” its position.

Photo Caption: “Shell: Disputes Don Marketing writ” (Shows copy of Writ)


The Shell Game Booklet circulated at Shell HQ buildings at The Hague and London by the Donovan’s, 1998.

Donovan brings new Shell writ “this time for libel”: Marketing Magazine 30 April 1998

Donovan brings new Shell writ

John Donovan, the sales promotion agency managing director who is suing Shell for copyright infringement over its Smart Card
loyalty scheme, has served another writ on the oil company, this time for libel.

Donovan, whose agency, Don Marketing, has already brought three copyright actions against Shell, is suing over a press state-
ment the oil firm released in response to his latest copyright writ.

Shell responded to the writ, served two weeks ago, by saying it was satisfied that “the claim … is entirely without substance”.

Donovan says that this implies he is bringing a claim which is “wholly bogus and false”. The libel writ claims damages on the basis that Donovan’s reputation has been gravely damaged and that he has “suffered acute anxiety and distress”.

A spokeswoman for Shell said: “All we have done is defend our position when publicly attacked by Don Marketing.”

Shell stands firm on Smart charges: Promotions & Incentives May 1998

May 1998

Shell will defend itself against claims by its former promotional agency Don Marketing, that it came up with Shell’s Smart consortium idea.

Don Marketing director, John Donovan, issued a writ against Shell on 9 April claiming multi-million pound damages.

Shell and Don Marketing have been discussing the allegations since Shell’s AGM last year. Both parties have assembled evidence and interviewed witnesses in the interim.

The action relates to proposals Don Marketing claims to have put to Shell in 1989 for a “multi brand” loyalty scheme. The agency claims it went as far as seeking out potential partners, including Tesco and Sainsbury’s before Shell said it did not wish to proceed with the idea in 1990.

The action is the latest from Shell’s former business partner. Don Marketing has sued the company three time in recent years over promotional ideas it claims to have presented to the company that were subsequently used. All of the actions have been settled out of court.

A Shell spokesperson said the writ would not inhibit the scheme’s national roll out.

Don’s Smart writ: Forecourt Trader May 1998

Shell UK is being sued for allegedly breaching copyright on the idea it used to create Shell Smart Card, its loyalty programme.

John Donovan, managing director of Don Marketing UK, has issued the High Court Writ alleging that the current Smart scheme operated by Shell is based on a proposal that his company disclosed to the oil company in confidence. The writ also alleges breach of contract.

In 1989, Donovan’s company presented the idea of a multibrand loyalty card scheme to Paul King, who at that time was Shell UK’s national promotions manager. In July 1990, Shell took the option.

Further discussions between the two companies continued between 1990 and 1994, however, in February 1994, Shell said that there was no further point of discussion and launched the programme later that year.

Meanwhile, Shell is about to roll-out the Smart Card multi-company loyalty programme nationwide.

New clash for Don Marketing and Shell: Incentive Today Magazine May 1998

OIL giant Shell is being sued for misuse of confidential information and breach of contract by Don Marketing over its use of the Shell Smart Card loyalty programme.

Don Marketing’s managing director, john Donovan, claims to have devised and refined the scheme for Shell between the years 1989-93. Donovan issued a High Court writ against Shell on 8 April following a breakdown in talks to resolve the dispute. ‘We last took the concept to Shell on 22 November 1992 at the request of the company’s national promotions manager, Andrew Lazenby,’ says Donovan. ‘We know that he briefed Option One (now Tequila/Option One which currently runs the scheme) on “Project Hercules” in January 1993. This is an almost an exact replica of our proposal to Shell.’

Option One subsequently won two ISP Gold awards for the scheme in 1995.

Neither Shell nor Tequila/Option One would discuss the case with Incentive Today but Shell has issued the Following statement:

‘Over the last four years, Mr John Donovan has made various claims that he or his company own rights in respect of several Shell forecourt promotions. His most recent allegations have been that his company invented the Smart loyalty programme and that he or his company should be compensated for its use. The claim has been most carefully investigated and discussed in correspondence with Mr Donovan and his solicitors, and Shell UK is satisfied that it is entirely without substance. Mr Donovan has now issued a writ against Shell UK in respect of Smart. We intend to defend his claims vigorously in court.’

Shell has reportedly made previous out-of-court settlements to Don Marketing running to several hundred thousand pounds over its ‘Make Money’, ‘Nintendo’ and ‘Now Showing’ forecourt promotions.

SHELL HIT BY 2nd HIGH COURT WRIT: Financial Mail on Sunday 3 May 1998

Shell hit by 2nd High Court Writ: Announcement in the Sunday Times 3 May 1998

Advertising Standards Authority Adjudication on 1994 Shell Make Money promotion

Incentive Today Article Nov/Dec 1995 and Marketing Week article 7 May 1998

Marketing Week: ASA dragged into Shell UK Smart battle (7/05/98)

07 May 1998

The Advertising Standards Authority has been dragged into the legal fight between Shell UK and the sales promotion agency Don Marketing.

The agency issued a High Court writ against Shell at Easter alleging a copyright infringement over ownership of the Smart card concept.

But now it is alleging that in 1995 Shell deliberately misled the ASA, which was investigating complaints about its Make Money promotion. As part of it, envelopes were given away with petrol purchases, containing two pieces of paper which had to match to qualify for a prize. Players complained that the envelopes were not secure.

The allegation about Shell misleading the ASA is made on a specially created Website, which discusses Don Marketing’s relationship with Shell over the past ten years.

Don Marketing managing director John Donovan claims Shell lawyers asked his company to withhold additional information which it wanted to pass to the ASA as part of a complaint it had also made.

At the time of the ASA investigation, in July and August 1995, Don Marketing was negotiating to resolve an outstanding legal claim with Shell over ownership of the Make Money promotion idea.

“Shell torpedoed that (ASA) investigation and stopped important information going to the ASA,” says Donovan. “We had further information that would’ve changed what the ASA said in its report.”

The ASA dismissed the complaint. ASA spokesman Bill Lennon. says: “I cannot see it is in anybody’s interest to reopen the claim.”

Shell adds: “Shell did not mislead the ASA. It had all the information it needed to make its decision.”


Shell broadens base: Marketing Magazine 7 May 1998

Shell broadens base

Shell’s Smart card – currently the subject of a High Court dispute over its copyright – is being extended to cover 25 brand partners.

Card holders in much of the UK can currently only collect points at Shell or John Menzies and redeem them at Shell, UCI cinemas, John Menzies, and Super-Bowl.

But following a year-long test in Scotland, consumers can now collect points on purchases from Vision Express, Avis Rent A Car, Vauxhall, Hilton Hotels, British Gas and others.

The list of outlets card holders can spend points at is much longer and includes retailers such as Next and Dixons, and leisure brands such as airline KLM UK and Le Shuttle.

Over four million people collect Shell Smart points, making it one of the largest non-supermarket loyalty schemes.

Shell in legal row: Sales Promotion Magazine May 1998

Shell in legal row

SP agency’s claims over Smart Card cause troubled water for oil company

A promotional agency is suing Shell (UK) for allegedly breaching copyright on the concept idea Shell used to create its multipartner Smart Card loyalty scheme.

The allegation follows two previously unpublished out- of-court settlements which were kept secret as part of the agreement reached by the two sides.

The legal dispute between Shell and Don Marketing could delay the card programme even further – its launch was originally planned for the end of last year before partners failed to agree on a date.

The High Court writ against Shell was issued on 16 April, 13 months after Don Marketing first brought the claim to Shell’s attention, when Shell agreed to supply Don Marketing with a detailed account of the origin of the SMART concept.

During the subsequent months, both parties have assembled evidence and interviewed witnesses, yet Shell have allegedly been unable to name the creator of the concept, instead implying that the SMART scheme evolved from Shell’s Collect & Select voucher programmes.

Don Marketing claims that evidence shows that the original concept for the card was devised in response to a specific brief from Shell. A different agency was subsequently briefed to produce a scheme which replicated Don Marketing’s proposals.

Two independent witnesses – loyalty card expert Professor Steve Worthington and card manufacturer David Christian, are backing the claim that Don Marketing’s confidential proposal to Shell laid the foundation stones for the current Shell Smart Card scheme.

“Any impartial assessment of the evidence would show that the case is indefensible on Shell’s part,” says Don Marketing managing director John Donovan. “This is a matter of principle. One of the largest companies in the world shouldn’t need to steal ideas from promotional agencies.

“Quite apart from the cost to us – which has already exceeded £40,000 – and the effect this is having on day-to-day business, there are matters such as the two ISP Gold Awards, which were awarded to Option One for Shell’s existing Smart Card scheme.”

Despite the previous settlements becoming public, a statement issued by Shell states that “the claim has been carefully investigated”, but concludes that “Shell UK is satisfied that it is entirely without substance … we intend to fight [John Donovan’s l claims vigourously in court.”

John Donovan publishes warning notices about the Shell Smart scheme in trade magazines including Marketing Week, Marketing and Forecourt Trader (A4 full page): Cover article in Marketing Week 28 May 1998 plus examples of associated legal notices published in May, June and July 1998

Don Marketing, the sales promotion agency alleging Shell breached copyright on the idea it used to create the Shell Smart card scheme, has placed an advertisement in this week’s Marketing Week warning businesses they may face legal action if they join the scheme.

Under the headline “Shell Smart Legal Notice”, the ad sets out the details of the court case and warns potential partners that participation in the scheme “may involve an infringement of rights, rendering it liable to legal action”.

Don Marketing managing director John Donovan has been forced by Shell’s legal department to revise a letter he planned to send to Shell’s 1,700 service stations (MWMay 21).

The revised “letter before action” will be sent to all Gulf stations which have not been rebranded as Shell and are not yet contracted into the Smart scheme with Shell.
Donovan says: “There is a problem with interfering with existing contracts, but we are setting our approach out in the letter.”

The letter will also be sent to Shell service stations to warn managers they will be liable legal proceedings when the Smart card scheme ends, and also to dealers to warn they will be liable if they switch to another franchise brand.

Shell UK is adamant it will win the case when it reaches the High Court. Mike Harle, retail development manager for UK and Ireland, says: “We think the case is clear that the Shell Smart card scheme out there is not John Donovan’s, but ours. We believe we can prove this in court.”

Shell UK will keep its station owners informed of the legal proceedings.


SHELL SMART LEGAL NOTICE published in Marketing Week, 28 May 1998 (and in other Marketing, Promotions and Petrol retailing trade magazines)


John Alfred Donovan (Plaintiff and Shell UK Limited (Defendant)



Any business contemplating becoming a partner in the SMART consortium scheme is hereby notified that any such participation may involve an infringement of rights, rendering it liable to legal action. For further information, see our website at:

Related article in Loyalty Magazine “Shell Smart copyright battle gets nastier”

John Donovan, a director of Don Marketing UK ltd, believes he owns the copyright to the Shell Smart loyalty scheme. He has been involved in protracted legal wrangling with Shell UK and last month issued a High Court writ when talks broke down. Recently he decided to write to all Shell partners and petrol station managers warning them they may face legal action if they participate in the scheme. Donovan spoke to Loyalty about why he believes the copyright is his.

The advertisement in Marketing Week states that “Any business contemplating becoming a partner in the SMART consortium scheme is hereby notified that any such participation may involve an infringement of rights, rendering it liable to legal action.” It refers interested parties to its web site at www.don-marketing. com.

John Donovan is stepping up pressure on one of the largest company in the world, in his fight for recognition that he thought of the Shell Smart Card idea first.

That David is taking on Goliath is obvious, and in itself proof of the depth of feeling that the small man has been wronged.

But why has John Donovan taken so long to fight back, and why does he feel he can win against such a hefty opponent? When Loyalty first spoke to him John had just lodged his High Court writ and was gathering strength for the offensive.

Explaining why his action had taken so long he said: ‘Taking on the world’s largest company is a daunting prospect. When the Shell card scheme was first launched, it didn’t appear to be the same scheme, but when in March last year they launched the Scottish multi-partner scheme, it then became obvious it was my original idea. Since then I have been gathering evidence, and expert opinions, including that of Professor Steve Worthington, who agrees with me. Worthington said: “Based on the information I have received [from Don Marketing] the presentation by Don Marketing to Shell UK on October 23, 1989 does seem to lay the foundation for the current Shell Smart Scheme.”

Make Money

DM has had a business relationship with Shell stretching back almost two decades and has been responsible for many of Shell’s most successful promotions, both in the UK and overseas, including the Make Money game in the UK, Ireland and Singapore.

During that time Donovan has issued writs against Shell three times, concerning the Nintendo game, the Now Showing promotion and the Make Money game. “In all three cases,” says Donovan, “it was the same individual concerned, and in all three cases, Shell settled out of court.”

DM claims its concept was devised in response to a specific brief from Shell. The brief itself stemmed from research carried out by DM which first identified flaws in loyalty schemes commonly used at that time, such as Shell’s Collect & Select scheme. John Donovan says he suggested a card scheme, using a number of partners.

The issue has now turned acrimonious, with Don Marketing warning partners of their liabilities and Shell insisting that when it reaches the High Court, it will undoubtedly win.

Explaining why he is prepared to risk so much to fight such an unbalanced battle, the director said: “We thrive on good ideas, and have to protect them. Shell has always abided by agreements in the past, and we had a fruitful relationship until one individual came onto the scene, and working unsupervised, made agreements with me that he later denied.

“We have had legal opinion that we have a strongly arguable case with good prospects, and that the claim will likely be extended to overseas exploitation of the concept by the Royal Dutch/Shell Group.”

Although Shell’s legal department has managed to get his letter revised, Donovan will also be writing to all 400 Gulf stations currently being rebranded by Shell, warning of the consequences of moving to the Shell Smart scheme.

Shell comment “We are strongly contesting Don Marketing’s claims and litigation is pending. There has been a considerable amount of open comment on this matter. Shell believes it is not appropriate to discuss in public matters that should be resolved in court.”

SMART partner extension goes ahead

Shell is going ahead with extending its Smart card loyalty scheme, despite it being the subject of a High Court dispute over copyright. The company has announced that the Smart chip card can now be used to collect or spend points on 25 different brands. These include Avis Rent A Car, British Gas, British Midland, Commercial Union, First Choice, Hilton Hotels, John Menzies, KLM UK, Le Shuttle, RAC, Shell, UCI Cinemas, Unijet, Vauxhall, Virgin Net and Vision Express.

Customers in Scotland only can also collect and spend SMART points at Dixons, Currys, The Link and Victoria Wine.

Gary Anderton, SMART manager said: “Many loyalty programmes know the next big step is to start creating a multi-company ‘currency’ – and we’ve pulled it off. Research has shown that people want to collect points on more of their purchases, have a greater choice of reward and use a single card. Customers also want their privacy respected and do not want to be deluged with unwanted mail, so we have promised that too.”

SMART first launched as the Shell loyalty scheme in October 1994. It gained much publicity as the first nationwide smart card in the UK, where it now has 4 million cardholders. Last year it became the first loyalty scheme to offer points on the Web. Card holders have to click on flashing credits scattered around the websites of seven SMART member companies.

May/June 1998

Shell faces new threat to Smart card scheme: Marketing Week 21 May 1998

Picture Caption: Smart Card: Station mailing threat

21 May 1998

Don Marketing, the sales promotion agency embroiled in a legal wrangle with Shell UK, is threatening to send letters to Shell’s 1,700 service stations warning owners about the-legal implications of operating the Smart card scheme.

Managing director John Donovan intends to send a “letter before action” to a sample station – Tim Brinton Cars in Bury St Edmunds – then roll out the mailing to the entire network at a later date.

The proposed “letter before action” warns that Don Marketing has the legal right to seek damages against any company participating in the Shell Smart scheme without consent from John Donovan.

Shell’s solicitor DJ Freeman has written to Donovan’s solicitors Royds Treadwell warning that “the sending of such notices amounts to an inducement to breach their contractual commitments to our clients, and as such, are unlawful”.

But Donovan is adamant that the letter will be sent even though the full mailing to all service stations will cost thousands of pounds. “It is our firm intention to send it and if stations continue to operate the Smart scheme we will issue further proceedings to stop them,” he says.

Don Marketing has issued two writs alleging Shell UK breached copyright on the concept idea used to create the Smart card loyalty programme and for alleged defamation of Donovan in a press statement (MW April 16 and 23).

Shell has been warned by its solicitors not to speak to the press following Donovan’s defamation action.

The company issued a statement saying: “The proper forum for resolving these matters is in court and proceedings are moving forward to enable them to be resolved there.”

Shell: Don is more than ‘disgruntled’: Marketing Week LETTERS 21 May 1998

Picture Caption: Shell: Don Marketing’s battle over the Smart concept is its fourth High Court action against the UK company

I am writing in response to Alan Mitchell’s article about the key to loyalty card survival (MWMay 14).

He mentioned Shell’s aspiration to reach 8 million members within a year “legal battles with disgruntled sales promotion agencies permitting” – a reference to our High Court action against Shell. “Disgruntled” is not the description I would choose.

Frankly, I am absolutely pissed off with Shell UK. Let me explain why. The multimillion pound claim in respect of the Smart consortium concept operated by Shell in the UK and in several other countries is not our first High Court action against Shell UK. It is the fourth. All involve breach of confidence and/or breach of contract. All involve the same Shell UK national promotions manager. It has been going on for five drawn out years.

I also want to set the record straight regarding a statement issued by Shell UK on or around April 21 1998 in which it gave the impression that I am a vexatious litigant, who issues High Court actions in respect of bogus claims. In fact, Shell has already settled the first three actions in our favour.

I even received an unsolicited letter of apology from Dr Fay, the chairman of Shell UK, admitting that its dealings with us did not meet “the high standards we set ourselves and which our long relationship had led you to expect of us”. I have now issued libel proceedings against Shell UK for defamation in regard to its press statement.

As Shell is well aware, we were not the only sales promotion agency which complained to Shell UK about the business practices of the relevant manager. Even its retained promotions agency eventually refused to disclose confidential information in his presence. We are, however, the only agency which has been brave enough (or foolish enough) to take on one of the world’s leading multi- national Goliaths.

I do not recommend anyone else to follow our path. Litigation on such a scale has a destructive effect on business and family. Shell UK and its lawyers have bombarded my company and my family with threats over the years (verbally and in writing). Some have come from the highest levels of Shell UK management.

However, we will see it through to the end, as we are determined that right will prevail over might.

It is only fair to mention for the record, that in the interests of justice, Sir John Jennings, the chairman of Shell Transport & Trading Company up to June 1997, personally interceded in our legal battles with Shell UK. I had several brief meetings with him. He upheld Shell’s Statement of General Business Principles requiring honesty, integrity and openness in all of Shell’s dealings.

Mitchell mentioned Shell’s desire to expand the number of partners in Smart. With the objective of avoiding publicity that could have damaged Shell’s plans to expand the scheme, it was agreed over a year ago that Shell would, in effect, take the Smart claim up to the “discovery” stage, without any legal proceedings being commenced.

As litigation is now underway, that arrangement has ended. I am therefore sending legal notifications to existing Smart partners reserving rights to take legal action if they continue to participate in the scheme that Shell is conducting without our consent.

We will also be notifying potential partners.

John Donovan

Don Marketing

Bury St Edmunds


Donovan’s beef with Shell online: Daily Telegraph 11 June 1998

Donovan’s beef with Shell on-line

HIGH court writs have been filed against Shell UK by independent marketing man John Donovan. Through his company, Don Marketing, he claims that in 1989 he was the brains behind Shell’s Smart Card scheme.

Donovan is alleging a breach of confidence and breach of contract and has also filed a separate writ for libel. He is talking of “multi-million pound” damages.

Suffolk-based Donovan is publicising his gripes on two elaborate and colourful internet websites, don-marketing. com and He has also decided to book adverts in the marketing press.

A spokesman for Shell UK says: “The matter is being strongly contested. It is not appropriate to comment further.”

Shell Smart Legal Notice: full page announcement: Forcourt Trader July 1998

Don Claims first round in Shell libel action: Marketing Week 30 July 1998

By Clare Conley

Don Marketing, the sales promotion agency, is claiming a victory against Shell UK in the first round of a libel case against the oil giant.

Shell UK was ordered to pay costs for a preliminary hearing at the High Court which took place earlier this week. The libel case will be heard before a jury and Don Marketing will have the power to subpoena top Shell UK management, including chairman Chris Fay, to give evidence.

John Donovan, managing director of Don Marketing, says: “It will become the ‘McShell’ case to follow in the footsteps of “Mc Libel’.”

The Shell UK libel case is an off-shoot of a continuing legal battle over the ownership of the original idea for the Shell Smart card scheme (MW April 16). Donovan instigated the libel action in response to a press statement issued by Shell in April, in which Shell UK said it had investigated Donovan’s claim that he has rights in respect of several forecourt promotions and was “satisfied that it is entirely without substance”.

Donovan claims the statement caused damage to his reputation and personal anxiety and distress because it implied that he was pursuing a “bogus” claim for compensation.

MARKETING WEEK JULY 30 1998 ( We have corrected one spelling error, changing “Chris Say” to “Chris Fay”)

“McShell” case continues: Loyalty Magazine August 1998

John Donovan is continuing his battle over the Shell Smart scheme (see page 3, Loyalty June 1998).

His company, sales promotion agency Don Marketing is claiming a first round victory against Shell UK in a libel case already being dubbed “McShell,” because of its David and Goliath-style similarities to the “Mclibel” case.

Shell UK had to pay costs for a preliminary hearing at the High Court which took place at the end of July. The libel case will be heard before a jury and Don Marketing will have the right to subpoena top Shell UK management to give evidence. Donovan has printed a full-page Legal Notice in industry magazine, Forecourt Trader, stating his company would “take legal action against any business infringing his right to the Smart consortium scheme.”

Donovan has also issued a dossier entitled the “Don Marketing Saga” to MPs, and alleges Shell is using underhand tactics.

Loyalty will continue reporting developments.

On cyberpicket lines: Evening Standard 28 September 1998

On cyberpicket lines



WE’VE got Internet banking, Internet sex, Internet hype (aplenty). Now say hello to cyberpicketing, the most fashionable way for little people to get their own back.

Hacking for Girlies recently sabotaged the New York Times website, replacing the usual sober journalism with a rant in support of imprisoned hacker Kevin Mitnick.

At BP, for instance, they were surprised to discover a new website, that was eerily close tn appearance to their corporate home page, However, all the site’s links led to information about one Mr Bunt, and how his car had been damaged in the carwash of a BP (franchise) garage.

BP was perturbed. Legal soundings were taken, Bunt’s Internet service provider was contacted and the site was suspended. But BP did contact Commercial Union (the insurers of the franchisee). Bunt got his repair. David 1, Goliath nil.

When McDonald’s notoriously sued a pair of eco-pamphleteers, not only was the year-in, year-out publicity appalling, bnt it gave birth to The case is long gone, but the site is stlll expanding.

And so to Mr Donovan, director of a marketing company whIch used to think up ideas for Shell. Convinced that some of his ideas seemed to have been adopted by Shell as its own, he started to complain to the company.

The full acrimonious saga can be enjoyed at

Does Mr Donovan have any pointers for an effective cyberpicket?

Flrst, it needn’t cost a fortune. Donovan’s site is the work of 19-year-old Nick Gill, who replied to an add for an Internet wizz. The site has cost hundreds rather than thousands of pounds. Second, don’t forget to register the sIte with all the search engines, otherwise your target’s lawyers may have trouble finding you. Third, don’t look too professional: it spoils the aura of plucky amateurishness.

Neil Courtis

Shell smacked over libel action: Incentive Today Magazine September 1998

The legal wrangle between John Donovan and Shell UK continues with Donovan claiming victory in the first round. Shell had tried to have a libel writ struck off and the high court ruled that Don Marketing indeed had a case following a Shell press statement which inferred that previous claims Donovan made against Shell were without merit, and the current claim is bogus.

Donovan alleges that Shell’s Smart loyalty scheme is based on proposals put forward by his company Don Marketing, and issued a High Court writ for misuse of confidential information and breach of contract in April.

In response to the writ Shell issued the press statement to Incentive Today which was printed in the May edition. Donovan immediately issued a writ for libel on the grounds that the statement implies that previous claims that he has made against Shell were without merit and that the Smart claim is bogus.

Shell attempted to have the writ struck off in a High Court hearing in July but failed and was ordered to pay costs. Shell has since issued its Defence and Counterclaim to the Smart writ and a response from Donovan is imminent. High Court hearings on either matter, however, are unlikely until next year.


Affidavit supplied by an independent solicitor (Gross & Co) verifying the results of a survey of Shell UK business ethics. Includes self-explanatory exhibit and associated publication of relevant survey results in Marketing Week – half page and quarter page announcements: September 1998

Full page ethical survey results for Shell: Forecourt Trader October 1998

Judge Shell by actions not words: Marketing Week 25 February 1999

I read with interest your editorial about the ethical dilemmas facing multinationals and the reference in particular to Shell’s recent public relations disasters. You say that “Shell has apparently learned its lesson”. I beg to differ.

My claim against Shell UK in respect of the Smart loyalty scheme is set down for a three week High Court trial in June.

I invite Marketing Week to attend the trial. You will then be able to make an informed assessment of Shell’s ethical conduct after sensational evidence is put into the public domain.

Don Marketing, the agency I founded, has successfully sued Shell three times in recent years for allegedly stealing business ideas that we put to the company in the strictest confidence. Shell settled out of court each time.

During the current litigation, Shell has employed undercover investigators who have used outright deception in the course of their activities. I have a letter from Shell’s legal director, Richard Wiseman, admitting Shell’s association with the covert activities (copy available on request).

I would respectfully recommend that you wait for the emergence of evidence in the coming trial before making further comments about Shell’s reformed ethical conduct. We must judge Shell by its deeds, not by its words.

John Donovan

Founder of Don Marketing UK

Bury St Edmunds


SHELL SHOCK: Oil giant Shell hit by Multi-million litigation – see Time Magazine 8 March 1999

Shell loyalty row continues: Incentive Today June 1999

John Donovan’s marathon tangle with Shell UK comes to a head this month with the High Court hearing in which Shell stands accused of breach of contract and misuse of confidential information over its Smart loyalty scheme.

The three week hearing, starting on June 10, should end a bitter six year dispute between the two parties in which Donovan has already received over £250.000.00 in out of court settlements following Shell’s use of three forecourt promotions that Donovan claimed rights to.

Donovan claims that he originally briefed Shell on a’multi-partner loyalty scheme in 1989 and that the Smart scheme launched in Scotland in 1997 is based on ideas presented in that briefing. Shell denies Donovan’s allegations.

The latest part of the claim has seen Donovan set up a website attacking Shell, he has also picketed the Shell Centre at Waterloo and disrupted the oil giant’s 100th Anniversary AGM.

The latest bizarre development in the case is an intervention in the form of a letter from the wife of Mark Moody-Stuart, the head of Shell International. In her letter to Donovan, Judy Moody-Stuart pleads with Donovan to stop attacking her husband saying ‘I’ve had enough of reading your miserable destructive comments about a great group of people, Shell people, and their organisation’. She then urges Donovan to spend his time working for the charity Centrepoint before wishing him ‘good luck in coming to terms with the world.’

Ideas man sues Shell: The Times 16 June 1999

The Shell oil company’s highly successful Smart card customer loyalty scheme was “pinched” from an idea put forward in confidence by the man behind many of its earlier promotions, a High Court judge was told.

In a David and Goliath legal battle, John Donovan, 52, is suing the petrol giant over its alleged misuse of confidential information and its refusal to credit him as creator. Shell says the idea came from a different source.

Donovan takes Smart case against Shell to court: Sunday Business 6 June 1999


Pump action: John Donovan has fought Shell for six years

A BUSINESSMAN who claims Shell stole his ideas for its internationally successful Smart card promotion scheme, is this week launching a multi·million pound lawsuit against the oil company.

If John Donovan wins he stands to collect millions. If he fails he will lose everything – including his home.

The case – alleging breach of contract and misuse of confidential information – opens in the High Court on Thursday and is expected to last three weeks with costs running up to £1 million.

Mr Donovan, 52, says that Shell took his ideas – which he gave to it in confidence – and developed them without consulting or paying him.

“I want what I am entitled to and I want the world to see that Shell is not the company it claims to be in its glossy propaganda brochures,” he said.

Shell denies the allegations and is counter·claiming £100,000 for breach of a confidentiality agreement.

Richard Wiseman, its legal director, said Mr Donovan was “misguided” and had been wrongly encouraged by Shell’s previous payments.

Mr Donovan has received £60,000 and another substantial undisclosed sum in settlements from Shell after claiming the theft of other ideas.

Mr Wiseman said Mr Donovan’s expertise was no longer appropriate for the type of promotions Shell was doing.

The court case is the culmination of a six·year campaign by Mr Donovan and his father, Alfred, 82, which has seen them picket Shell’s London headquarters and buy two Shell shares each to give them access to annual general meetings.

At risk in the latest action is their detached home near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

The Donovans began devising promotion schemes in the late Sixties when Mr Donovan senior owned a chain of petrol stations in East London and Essex.

In 1981 they struck their first deal with Shell for a “Make Money” promotion scheme – in which petrol purchasers had to find two matching halves of a “bank-note”. Shell gave them £500 to help to develop the idea.

The scheme was a success and others followed: a £4.5 million Mastermind promotion; a scratch card game offering £2·5 million of food prizes from Harrods; a card game endorsed by Bruce Forsyth; and a £4’5 million Star Trek promotion.

“We were putting up ideas in confidence,” Mr Donovan said. “We both respected that. We worked exclusively with Shell on a handshake basis.” Mr Donovan’s company, Don Marketing, was paid about £50,000 for each idea plus a percentage of printing costs and other fees.

But the relationship changed in 1992 when Shell appointed a new national promotions manager, he said.

In April 1994, Mr Donovan issued a writ against Shell over the use of a “Make Money” scheme. He threatened to sue each of Shell’s 2,000 forecourt businesses.

He accepted a £60,000 settlement and continued to fight Shell over a Nintendo promotion and a film promotion called “Now Showing”.

The Donovans formed a pressure group, The Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group. In October 1996 Shell paid another, larger, sum to settle the outstanding claims.

In March 1997, when Shell launched the Smart loyalty card, an ambitious promotion involving companies such as Woolworth and British Airways, Mr Donovan claimed that it was almost identical to a scheme he had first proposed in 1989. He claims that the oil company took an option on it in 1990.

He also alleges that Shell used an undercover investigator, Christopher Phillips, to look into his financial affairs. Shell’s lawyers admit that they hired Mr Phillips, but only to carry out “routine credit inquiries”.

Shell faces court battle on its Smart scheme: Marketing Magazine 10 June 1999

Marketing Magazine 10 June 1999

Shell faces court battle on its Smart scheme

Donovan: has taken legal action over Shell’s Smart Card loyalty scheme

By Nelli Denny

Shell will this week defend a multi-million-pound law suit from sales promotion agency Don Marketing, which claims Shell stole its idea for the Smart loyalty scheme.

The oil giant is facing charges of breach of contract and misuse of confidential information in the case which begins this Thursday in the High Court.

John Donovan, managing director of Don Marketing, maintains that between 1989 and 1992 he had a series of meetings with Shell’s promotional marketers at which, in response to a verbal brief, he outlined plans for a card-based, multi-brand loyalty scheme.

Shell liked the idea and in 1990 paid Don Marketing for an option, giving the oil giant first refusal on the idea.

During this period Donovan obtained outline agreement from Sainsbury’s that it would participate in the scheme.

At his final meeting on November 24 1992, Donovan claims he was assured that if Shell decided to pursue a multi-brand loyalty scheme he would be involved.

Two years later Shell Smart was triailed in Scotland, and by July the following year it became a multi-brand scheme after John Menzies joined as the first of many partners.

“This is a landmark case for ad and promotional agencies,” says Donovan. “Does the law of confidentiality protect ideas if they are presented in confidence?”

A Shell spokesman said “it is not appropriate to discuss the issue” before the case but added it would “vigorously defend the action”. It is counter-suing Donovan for breach of confidentiality.

Donovan, who will have to sell his house in order to cover the legal costs if he loses, has on three occasions since 1994 initiated action against Shell over forecourt promotions. Each case has been settled out of court, with Shell paying Donovan.

Oil giant stole my promotion idea, alleges businessman: East Anglian Daily Times 16 June 1999

East Anglian Daily Times, Wednesday June 16, 1999

Oil giant stole my promotion idea, alleges businessman

OIL-giant Shell’s successful Smart card customer loyalty scheme was “pinched” from a confidential idea put forward by the man behind many of its earlier promotions, a High Court judge heard yesterday.

In a David-and-Goliath legal battle, one-man think-tank John Donovan, 52, is .suing the petrol giant for millions of pounds over its alleged misuse of
confidential information and its refusal to credit him as creator of the scheme.

Shell says the idea came from a different source and is counter-claiming damages against Suffolk man Mr Donovan’s company, Don Marketing, for breach of a confidentiality agreement.

Geoffrey Cox, counsel for Mr Donovan, told Mr Justice Laddie in London that Shell had approached him in 1989 to come up with ideas to “jazz up” its flagging CoIlect and Select free gift promotion and suggest a long term replacement.

Mr Donovan, from Bradfield Combust near Bury St Edmunds, devised a joint loyalty card scheme under which Shell would join forces with a select consortium of other major retailers – all in different non-competing fields to avoid conflict of interest – so that customers could collect credit points and claim their free gifts far more quickly.

In 1990, said Mr Cox, Shell took an option to develop the plan in the future under usual terms of confidentiality which had governed its past dealings with Mr . Donovan, and in 1997 launched the Smart card, incorporating his ideas.

But when Mr Donovan stepped forward to claim payment for his contribution to the massively successful promotion, no money was forthcoming.

Shell’s witnesses seemed to have developed “corporate amnesia” about the information disclosed to them in 1990, said Mr Cox. “You may get the impression from those witnesses that Mr Donovan was treated to some extent as one of the general run of nuisances who would pester the company with information of no value,” he told the judge.

“In fact, Mr Donovan had a long, trusted and successful record with Shell as an adviser on promotions dating back to the early 1980s.”

Mr Donovan’s evidence would show that his idea had been “pinched”, said Mr Cox.

The court hearing, set for five days, is the culmination of a long-running campaign by Mr Donovan and his 82-year-old father Alfred for a fair deal from Shell.

INTO BATTLE WITH SHELL: Bury Free Press 18 June 1999

Bury Free Press Friday, June 18, 1999

Front page main story

Man sues oil giant over ‘his idea’


by Richard Hamer

A BUSINESSMAN stands to net millions of pounds if he wins an on-going battle with oil giant Shell.

John Donovan’s David and Goliath battle centres around his claim that Shell’s Smart card customer loyalty scheme was his idea.

Mr Donovan, of Bradfield Combust, says the idea was pinched from a concept mooted in confidence by him, but Shell says it stemmed from a different source.

And, while 52-year-old Mr Donovan is suing the multi-national over its alleged misuse of confidential information and refusal to credit him as the scheme’s creator, Shell is making a counter-claim for damages against Mr Donovan’s company Don Marketing, for breach of a confidentiality

Geoffrey Cox, for Mr Donovan, told the High Court on Tuesday that Shell approached Mr Donovan in 1989 for ideas to ‘jazz up’ its flagging Collect and Select free gift promotion.

Mr Donovan, who has lived in Bradfield Combust for 12 years, devised a joint loyalty card scheme, by which Shell would join forces with a select consortium of other major retailers, in different fields, so customers could collect credit points and claim free gifts more quickly.

In 1990, Shell took an option to develop the plan in the future, under terms of confidentiality which had governed their past dealings.

Seven years later the Smart card, incorporating Mr Donovan’s ideas, was launched, said Mr Cox.

But when he claimed payment for his contribution, no money was forthcoming.

Mr Cox told Mr Justice Laddie that Shell’s witnesses seemed to have developed ‘corporate amnesia’.

“You may get the impression from these witnesses that Mr Donovan was treated to some extent as one of the general run of nuisances who would pester the company with information of no value,” he said.

“In fact, Mr Donovan had a long, trusted and successful record with Shell as an adviser on promotions dating back to the early 1980s.”

The case is set to continue until Monday.


SUFFOLK-BASED promotions agency Don Marketing faced multinational giant Shell UK in the High Court to argue its case of alleged breach of contract and misuse of confidential commercial information.

The dispute centres on Shell’s Smart multi-brand loyalty card, now operational in the UK and eight other countries. This, claims Don’s managing director John Donovan, is based on proposals he first put to Shell in 1989 – an allegation denied by Shell, which insists that Smart’s genesis was an inhouse project codenamed Onyx which began in autumn 1991.

Self-cast in the role of David to Shell’s Goliath, Donovan has successfully pursued earlier legal actions against Shell for infringement of his intellectual property; he also won an interim hearing against the oil giant for alleged libel.

Donovan and his father Alfred have become Shell shareholders and formed the Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group, highlighting not only their own case but those of other disenchanted Shell suppliers and franchisees.

He has also run ads in the marketing press warning Shell’s partners in the Smart scheme [among them Avis Rent A Car, British Gas and First Choice Holidays] that they too could face legal action.

Marketing, 10/6/99

…. Stop press: The case ended abruptly after both sides withdrew their respective claims. The terms of the settlement were unstated.

Don ends legal proceedings against Shell UK: Marketing Week 8 July 1999

By David Benady

8 July 1999

The six-year legal battle between oil giant Shell UK and sales promotion company Don Marketing has finally been settled.

John Donovan, owner of Don Marketing, yesterday dropped his High Court action against the company over allegations that Shell stole his ideas for the Shell Small Card, a multi brand loyalty card.

Donovan first sued Shell in 1993 over allegations that the oil company and forecourt retailer stole his ideas for a number of sales promotions. Three of the claims were settled out of court.

The final claims were laid to rest this week. The two parties issued a joint statement yesterday, saying: “John Donovan has abandoned his claim against Shell in relation to Shell’s Smart loyalty scheme. He has acknowledged that these claims are without foundation and should not have been brought.

“Mr Donovan has also withdrawn all allegations of impropriety made against Shell or against its employees in connection with these proceedings and has agreed not to repeat them in any manner whatsoever.

“For its part, Shell acknowledges that Mr Donovan’s proceedings were brought in good faith and also withdraws all allegations of impropriety made during the proceedings.”

Neither party would make any further comment.


Shell has settled out of court with John Donovan…: Marketing Magazine STOP PRESS Column 28 July 1999

Shell has settled a law suit out of court with John Donovan, marketing director of sales promotion agency Don Marketing, after he abandoned his claim that Shell had stolen the idea for its Smart loyalty scheme from his agency (Marketing, June 10). The case began at the High Court on June 12. Shell and Donovan both refused to comment.

Shell claim is settled: Bury Free Press 9 July 1999

BURY FREE PRESS, Friday, July 9, 1999

Shell claim is settled

A DAVID and Goliath battle between a Bury St Edmunds businessman and oil giant Shell has ended in stalemate after both sides agreed an out-of-court settlement.

John Donovan, 52, was suing Shell claiming the company stole his ideas and turned them into its successful Smart Card loyalty scheme.

Shell denied the allegation and made a counter claim against Mr Donovan, alleging his company, Don Marketing, breached a confidentiality agreement.

On Tuesday, after days of battling it out in the HIgh Court, both sides agreed to the action being dismissed.

A joint statement issued afterwards said Mr Donovan bad abandoned his claim against Shell along with related libel proceedings.

“He acknowledged that these claims are without foundation and should not have been brought,” it said.

The statement added that Mr Donovan, who has lived in Bradfield Combust for 12 years, had withdrawn all allegations of impropriety against Shell or against its employees in connection with the proceedings and had agreed not to repeat them in any manner.

Shell said it acknowledged that the proceedings were brought in good faith and it also withdrew all allegations of impropriety.

Stalemate for marketing firm’s ‘stolen’ idea claim: East Anglian Daily Times 7 July 1999

With photo of John Donovan against Shell logo

East Anglian Daily Times, Wednesday , July 7, 1999

Stalemate for marketing firm’s ‘stolen’ idea claim


John Donovan, from Bradfield Combust, sued Shell over a promotion he said was his idea. But yesterday his claim, and the firm’s counter suit, were dropped

Photograph: ANDY ABBOTT

A DAVID and Goliath court battle between oil giant Shell and a promotions expert who claimed they “pinched” his idea and turned it into a highly successful Smart Loyal Scheme has ended in stalemate.

Shell were sued by John Donovan, 52, from Bradfield Combust, near Bury St Edmunds, who claimed they misused confidential information relating to the scheme and refused to credit him as its creator.

Meanwhile, Shell had counter-claimed against Mr Donovan’s marketing company, Don Marketing, alleging breach of a confidentiality agreement.

But after days of battling in London’s High Court, both sides have agreed to dismiss their actions.

A joint statement issued afterwards said Mr Donovan had abandoned his claim against Shell along with related libel proceedings.

“He acknowledged the claims are without foundation and should not have been brought,” said the statement.

It added that he had also withdrawn all allegations of impropriety against Shell or its employees in connection with the proceedings and had agreed not to repeat them in any manner.

Shell acknowledged the proceedings were brought in good faith and they also withdrew allegations of impropriety made in the course of the proceedings.

Prior to the settlement, Geoffrey Cox, for Mr Donovan, told Mr Justice Laddie Shell approached Mr Donovan in 1989 and asked him for ideas to jazz up its nagging Collect and Select free gift promotion.

In response Mr Donovan claimed he came up with a joint loyalty card scheme under which Shell would join forces with a select consortium of other major retailers so that customers could collect credit points and claim their free gifts far more quickly.

He claimed Shell took an option to develop the plan and in 1997 launched the Smart Loyalty Scheme which incorporated his ideas. However, he accused Shell of refusing to pay, even though the scheme was highly successful.

Mr Cox had accused Shell’s witnesses of appearing to have “corporate amnesia”, yet claimed Mr Donovan had a “trusted and successful” record with Shell.

Shell action abandoned: Forecourt Trader August 1999

The long-running and acrimonious dispute between Shell UK and sales promotion agency Don Marketing has ended following a statement released by both parties last month. The dispute centred on Don Marketing’s claim that Shell stole its idea for the Smart loyalty scheme. John Donovan, managing director of Don Marketing, took legal action against Shell claiming breach of contract and misuse of confidential information. Shell counter-sued him for breach of confidentiality.

Mr Donovan claims that between 1989 and 1992 he had a series of meetings with Shell where he outlined plans for a card-based, multibrand loyalty scheme. Two years after Mr Donovan’s last meeting with Shell where he was apparently assured of involvement if the scheme went ahead, Shell launched a trial of its Smart card without him.

In last month’s statement it was announced that Mr Donovan had abandoned his claim against Shell and his related libel proceedings, and had acknowledged that the claims were without foundation and should not have been brought. It said he had also withdrawn all allegations of impropriety made against Shell or its employees in connection with these proceedings and has agreed not to repeat them. For its part, Shell acknowledged the proceedings were brought in good faith.


Leaflets distributed by Donovan’s at Shell HQ buildings announcing Donovan contact with Texaco and Chevron and that associated potential merger prospects with Shell might be adversely affected. Also letter from Alfred Donovan to Shell Chairman Mark Moody-Stuart dated 19 October 1998 warning Texaco had been “investigating matters”.

Don and Shell end Smart row: Incentive Today July-August 1999 plus a Shell UK Limited press release relating to the intended Shell Texaco merger mentioned in the article

After a bitter six year legal battle with Shell UK John Donovan has abandoned his claim against Shell UK. Donovan alleged that Shell stole his ideas for the Shell Smart loyalty scheme and initiated court proceedings in 1993.

Both parties issued a joint statement saying, “John Donovan has abandoned his claim against Shell in relation to the Shell’s Smart loyalty scheme. He has acknowledged that these claims are without foundation and should not have been brought.

“Mr Donovan has also withdrawn all allegations of impropriety made against Shell and its employees in connection with these proceedings and has agreed not to repeat them in any manner whatsoever.”

Both parties are bound by confidentiality clauses and have made no further comment on the dramatic turnaround just three days before the court hearing.

Speculation in the industry suggests that the sudden capitulation points to the possibility of a merger between Shell and another major petrol brand.

The oil industry is going through a period of major mergers with BP-Amoco-Mobil, Total-Fina and Esso-Mobil, all recent examples.

One ex-Shell employee said, “This has been an on-going saga for so long now, one could reasonably assume that the action had become a fly in the ointment for any potential deal. From the language of the statements it does seem that Shell has wanted to draw a line under this action and secure the future of Smart. This could now pave the way for a merger, and Texaco would be the likely candidate.”

The recent fluctuations in the oil price and the need to rationalise and cut costs across major markets has led oil giants into increasingly ambitious partnerships.

Currently Total/Fina is pursuing French giant Elf which itself has long been seeking a partner for its UK operation. Shell and Texaco are currently the only majors without partners. In the US, the two companies have been downstream partners for a number of years.

Shell’s proposed merger with Texaco was halted last year. Uncertainty over the long-term legal ownership of the Smart concept would certainly be a barrier to such a deal.



Press Releases, apology letter from Shell Chairman, article by Shell Legal Director Richard Wiseman. Items from 1995 to 1998.

Reuters article featuring links to 4 June 2008

Shell involvement in Arms and Ammunition for Police Use in Nigeria Lifeboats trouble at Brent field: 14 March 2008

The Wall Street Journal: Shell Investigated for Corruption By Department of Justice, SEC: 17 March 2008

The Wall Street Journal: Shell Addresses Output Issue: 18 March 2008

UpstreamOnline: Shell reserves on a steady course: 20 March 2008

UpstreamOnline: pressure rises on Shell: 14 March 2008

The Daily Journal (Illinois): How Shell Oil case became national in scope: 3 March 2008

The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois): Shell gasoline spill settlement reached: 29 February 2008

Demand for oil and gas will outstrip supply within 7 years, says Shell chief: The Times 25 January 2008

A word in your Shell-like – it’s all gibberish: The Times 5 January 2008

Shell will outsource jobs as part of cost shake-up: The Wall Street Journal 2 January 2008

Shell to cut thousands of IT jobs: Daily Express 31 December 2007

Shell to outsource 3,200 IT jobs: The Guardian 31 December 2007

Shell looks to outsource nearly all 3,600 IT jobs: Financial Times 31 December 2007

Shell prepares to cut 3,200 jobs: The Independent 31 December 2007

Shell to axe 3,200 jobs: Daily Mail 31 December 2007

Shell plans to outsource 3,600 jobs: Sunday Telegraph 30 December 2007

Since the 1990’s, Royal Dutch Shell has been at war with the Donovan family: The Times City Diary 22 September 2007

Online revolutionaries: Sunday Telegraph 9 September 2007

Pressure on Shell over safety of platforms: Saturday 8 September 2007

Shell on back foot as ‘gripe site’ alleges safety concerns: Daily Mail 1 September 2007

AN ATTEMPT by Royal Dutch Shell to claim the website…: The Times 16 August 2005

Hostile Domain: The Times City Diary Tuesday June 21 2005

Shell Wages Legal Fight Over Web Domain Name: The Wall Street Journal Thursday 2 June 2005

Shell Fights Over Domain Name Ahead of Parent Firm’s Merger: The Wall Street Journal Europe June 3 – 5, 2005

Sunday Times: MI6 ‘firm’ spied on green groups: 17 June 2001

sales-promotion-magazine-don-marketing- advert- june-1991

KWE Brochure

Channel Keeper May 2008

Notices Over Time: May 2008

Final Warning: 28 June 2008

Cook to break the mould at Shell: The Mail on Sunday 13 July 2008

Mayo family complains over Shell surveillance: Monday July 14, 2008

Paddy Briggs

Corrib Pipeline

Shell Call’s in the Navy: Irish Daily Mail 30 August 2008

Shell Ethiopia Settlement Document November 2008


Certain sinister events took place after JohnDonovan issued the following High Court proceedings against Shell

John Donovan High Court Writ Against Shell UK Limited issued 9 April 1998

Business Obituaries: Sir Peter Holmes: Improbable, buccaneering chairman of Shell

When he retired in 1993, he avoided taking up orthodox company directorships, but enjoyed becoming president of the Hakluyt Foundation, a discreet new outfit that provided intelligence for big corporations.

Letter from John Donovan to Shell Transport director Sir Peter Holmes: 23 April 1998

Letter from Lynn Moorlen, Editorial Manager, The European Newspaper: 11 June 1998

Letter from John Donovan to Shell UK Chairman Dr Chris Fay: 15 June 1998

Letter from John Donovan of Don Marketing to The European newspaper 16 June 1998

Letter from DJ Freeman Senior Partner Colin Joseph dated 16 June 1998

Letter from Royds Treadwell Solicitors to DJ Freeman Solicitors 18 June 1998

Letter from John Donovan to DJ Freeman Solicitors 18 June 1998

Letter from DJ Freeman 19 June 1998

Royds Treadwell letter to DJ Freeman 23 June 1999

Letter from John Donovan of Don Marketing to Shell Chairman Mark Moody-Stuart 23 June 1998

Letter from John Donovan of Don Marketing to Shell UK Legal Director Richard Wiseman 23 June 1998

DJ Freeman letter to Royds Treadwell 24 June 1998

Letter from Shell UK Legal Director Richard Wiseman to John Donovan 24 June 1998

Press Statement issued by Don Marketing 25 June 1998

Royds letter to DJ Freeman 25 June 1998

Don Marketing Letter to Turners Enquiry Services: 25 June 1998

Turner Investigators letter to Don Marketing 26 June 1998

Don Marketing letter to Chief Constable of Suffolk Police 29 June 1998

Don Marketing letter to Shell UK Legal Director Richard Wiseman 30 June 1998

Don Marketing letter to Shell Chairman Mark Moody-Stuart 30 June 1998

Letter received from Shell UK Legal Director Richard Wiseman 1 July 1998

Letter from DJ Freeman to Don Marketing 3 July 1998

Letter from Shell UK Legal Director Richard Wiseman to John Donovan, Don Marketing 9 July 1998

DJ Freeman letter to John Donovan Don Marketing 9 July 1998

Letter from Don Marketing to Office for Supervising of Solicitors 10 July 1998

Don Marketing letter to Marketing Week 21 July 1998

Letter from Don Marketing to Bury St Edmunds Police 22 July 1998

Turner Investigators letter to Don 5 August 1998

DJ Freeman letter to Don Marketing 7 August 1998

DF Freeman letter to Don Marketing 11 August 1998

Don Marketing letter to Office for Supervising of Solicitors 26 August 1998

Suffolk Police letter to Mr Donovan 16 October 1998

Letter from Alfred Donovan to DJ Freeman circulated as leaflet at offices of DJ Freeman and Shell HQ 19 October 1998

Letter from Alfred Donovan to Shell Chairman Mark Moody-Stuart November 1998

Email from Alfred Donovan to Colin Joseph of Kendall Freeman 4 April 2004

Faxed letter from Alfred Donovan to Kendall Freeman 5 April 2004

Email from Kendall Freeman to Alfred Donovan 7 April 2004

Email from Richard Wiseman to Alfred Donovan 13 April 2004

Alfred Donovan letter to Kendall Freeman 14 April 2004

Letter from John Donovan to Malcolm Brinded 16 April 2004

Email from Shell barrister Richard Wiseman to Alfred Donovan 8.10am 22 April 2004

Email from Alfred Donovan to Richard Wiseman 22 April 2004

Email from Shell Barrister Richard Wiseman to Alfred Donovan 22 April 2004

Email from Alfred Donovan to Richard Wiseman 26 April 2004

Email from Alfred Donovan sent to several hundred UK Members of Parliament 26/27 May 2004 (Subject: HAKLUYT – THE COMMERCIAL ARM OF MI6?)


Letter from Intelligence and Security Committee to Alfred Donovan 2 June 2004

Email to Alfred Donovan from Mike Webster, Solicitor Church of England Legal Office 3 June 2004

Faxed letter from Alfred Donovan to Hakluyt & Company Limited 4 June 2004

Letter from Alfred Donovan to the UK Intelligence and Security Committee 4 June 2004

Email from Hakluyt & Company Limited to Alfred Donovan 7 June 2004

Faxed letter from Alfred Donovan to Sir Mark Moody-Stuart 7 June 2004

Email from Mike Webster, Solicitor, Church of England Legal Office to Alfred Donovan 7 June 2004

Letter from Alfred Donovan to HM Queen Elizabeth II 7 June 2004

Letter from Hakluyt & Company Limited to Alfred Donovan 8 June 2004

Faxed letter from Alfred Donovan to Hakluyt & Company Limited 8 June 2004

Letter from Intelligence and Security Committee to Alfred Donovan 9 June 2004

Letter on behalf of HM Queen Elizabeth II 14 June 2004

Letter from Alfred Donovan to UK Intelligence and Security Committee 14 June 2004

Letter From UK Intelligence and Security Committee to Alfred Donovan 15 June 2004

Letter from Church of England 22 June 2004

Two revealing press articles about Hakluyt: (1) FT:” Masters of the great game turn to business” 23 March 2000 and (2) article by The Scotsman published 20 January 2003: “Intelligence firm with an air of mystery

Hakluyt/Shell Transport Accounts (Sir Peter Holmes & Sir William Purves were directors of Shell Transport and also at the same time directors of Hakluyt which undertook undercover ops during the same period for Shell.

The Hakluyt Foundation Report and Financial Statements year ended 30 June 1998 (Sir Peter Holmes appointed director 30 September 1997)

The “Shell” Transport and Trading Company, p.l.c. Annual Report 1997 (Sir Peter Holmes and Sir William Purves shown as directors)

The “Shell” Transport and Trading Company, p.l.c. Annual Report 1998 ((Sir Peter Holmes and Sir William Purves shown as directors)

The Hakluyt Foundation Report & Financial Statement year ended 30 June 1999 (Sir Peter Holmes a director)

The “Shell” Transport and Trading Company, p.l.c. Annual Report and Accounts 2000 (Sir Peter Holmes and Sir William Purves shown as directors)

Hakluyt & Company Limited Financial Statements for the Year Ended 30 June 2003 (signed by director/shareholder Sir William Purves)

Hakluyt & Company Limited 363s Annual Return signed 23 December 2003 (Sir William Purves director)

The Hakluyt Foundation Trading Account & Balance Sheet 30 June 2002 to 30 June 2003 (Sir William Purves director)

Hakluyt & Company Limited Report and Financial Startments year ended 30 June 2007 (Sir William Purves director)

The Hakluyt International Advisory Board 363s Annual Return signed 7 August 2007 (Sir William Purves director)

Hakluyt & Company Limited 363s Annual Return signed Jan 2008 (Sir William Purves 50,000 shares – largest shareholder?)

The Hakluyt Foundation 363s Annual Return Declaration signed 7 August 2002 (Sir William Purves director)

Related article


Related press articles about Shell/Hakluyt connection and undercover operations

Sunday Times: MI6 ‘firm’ spied on green groups: 17 June 2001

Article below includes admission by Shell about an “Enquiry Agent”

Promotions expert claims Shell stole his Smart card idea: Sunday Telegraph 6 June 1999

Evidence that Hakluyt recruits journalist as spies: July 2008




Donovan interventions in Sakhalin-2 Project


Alfred Donovan email correspondence with Shell International General Counsel Richard Wiseman: 11 November 2005 (note warning from Wiseman relates to Putin/Van der Veer animated article)

Email from Alfred Donovan to President Putin and automated response received 25 November 2005

Email to Oleg Mitvol, Ministry of Natural Resources of The Russian Federation 7 August 2006

Posting on Live Chat by The Ministry of Natural Resources of The Russian Federation 8 October 2006

Fax sent by John Donovan to Oleg Mitvol, headed “Royal Dutch Shell Sakhalin II project”: 17 October 2006

Fax from John Donovan to Oleg Mitvol, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Natural Resources of The Russian Federation: Wednesday 18 October 2006

Sakhalin II: Apocalypse Now? A potential environmental calamity on a scale never before witnessed by humanity!:18 October 2006

Email from John Donovan to Oleg Mitvol 19 October 2006

Email from John Donovan to Oleg Mitvol 19 November 2006

Email from John Donovan to Oleg Mitvol: 29 November 2006

Email received by John Donovan from Derek Brower, Senior Correspondent, The Petroleum Economist: 12 Dec 2006

John Donovan email correspondence with London law firm acting for Oleg Mitvol/RosPrirodNadzor: 21 December 2006 (Mark Stephens of
Finers Stephens Innocent)

The following files relating to the Donovan’s involvement in the Sakhalin-2 project in Russia were supplied to the Donovan’s by Shell as a result of a Data Protection Act application. There is a great deal of repetition but hidden in the pages is Shell internal correspondence relating to the Donovan’s and their website. It includes a Shell internal email to David Greer, the then Project Director and Deputy CEO of Sakhalin Energy Investment Company. The handwritten numbering at the right hand foot of the documents were added by the Donovan’s. All are pdf files and patience is needed when downloading.

Sakhalin-2 file 1: pages 1 to 31

Sakhalin-2 file 2: pages 31 to 70

Sakhalin-2 file 3: pages 71 to 109

Sakhalin-2 file 4: pages 110 to 150

Sakhalin-2 file 5: pages 151 to 193

Sakhalin-2 file 6: pages 194 to 218

Sakhalin-2 file 7: 5 pages Shell/SEIC internal emails concerning wish to “kill” Sunday Times story (it was “killed”)


Argus FSU Energy: Mitvol Turns up the heat: 19 November 2006 (Interview with Mitvol in which Mitvol says he received evidence from John Donovan of the “anti-Shell” website,

Johnson’s Russia List/ Russian news agency, Interfax: Nov 2006 (contains further confirmation of John Donovan being Mitvol’s source of Shell internal emails relating to Sakhalin-2 project)

January 2007 BUSINESS NEW EUROPE: Shell gets stuck in a Sakhalin blog-mire

Prospect Magazine: Rise of the gripe site: February 2007

Accountability in Action: Between exposé and libel: online activity and the lack of institutional accountability: 27 July 2007(Also look at “Accountability in Practice – The power of a website” at foot of main article)

Prospect Magazine: Shell’s Colchester headache: 12 September 2007

Nikkei BP (Japan): Gripe sites are becoming more powerful: 13 November 2007

Sakhalin Losses

1. Extract from Royal Dutch Shell Annual Report and Form 20-F 2007 – 28 Minority interest

“In April 2007, Shell sold half of its interest in Sakhalin II, reducing its interest from 55% to 27.5%, for a sales price of $4.1 billion. As a result of this transaction, Sakhalin II has been accounted for as an associated company rather than as a subsidiary with effect from April 2007. The main impact on the Consolidated Balance Sheet was a decrease of $15.7 billion in property, plant and equipment and $6.7 billion in minority interest, and an increase in investments: equity-accounted investments of $3.7 billion.”

2. Extract from Royal Dutch Shell Plc Annual Report and Form 20-F 2007 – Reserves

While proved oil and gas reserves attributable to Royal Dutch Shell shareholders reflected the net reduction of 402 million boe of proved reserves relating to Sakhalin

3. Extract from Boston Globe article published 23 August 2008:

Russia has been particularly aggressive. In one of the most blatant instances, Shell Oil was forced to yield control of its operations off Sakhalin Island in exchange for a payment of $7.4 billion from state-dominated Gazprom. Most outside analysts estimate that Shell’s share was worth $15 billion to $17 billion. Not only was Gazprom’s payment far below the amount Shell had invested in the project, but it provided Gazprom with a dominant 51 percent share of the ownership. This heavy-handed offer from Gazprom came after state environment officials threatened to close down the entire operation because of supposed environmental violations.

Shell could hardly refuse the offer. It was either take in Gazprom as the dominant partner or risk losing the investment. Sure enough, once Gazprom took over, the environmental issue magically disappeared. Shell’s CEO, Jeroen van der Veer, vainly tried to put a gloss on the whole episode by rationalizing that “the great news is that now there is stability so we can all work together, all the shareholders, to get the project up and running as soon as possible. . . . Thank you for suggesting this truly historic event.” He even thanked Russia’s Vladimir Putin “for your assistance.

David Greer Story: Project Director and Deputy CEO of Sakhalin Energy resigned after internal email was leaked to

‘Pipeliners All! Shell’s memo to Sakhalin: Financial Times 5 June 2007

Shell’s team in ‘hell’ feels the heat: Financial Times 6 June 2007

Shell man’s motivational memo is straight from the Patton script: 7 June 2007

Motivational memos must make their message clear: 11 June 2007

Memo writer in the Shell annals: Financial Times 22 June 2007

FT Online Poll on “Worst Motivational Memo”: June 2007

Email from Sakhalin Energy to John Donovan 21 June 2007

Data Protection Act Documents released by Shell to the Donovan’s regarding terrorist threat to Shell

Email correspondence with Shell on Security Matters

Data Protection Act Documents released by Shell to the Donovan’s regarding The Wall Street Journal article about the Shell/Donovan domain name battle

Shell internal email regarding Wall Street Journal article on domain name battle

Data Protection Act Documents released by Shell to the Donovan’s regarding former Shell International HSE Group Auditor, Bill Campbell

Campbell file 1, pages 1 to 26

Campbell file 2, pages 27 to 50

Campbell file 3, pages 51 to 76

Campbell file 4, pages 76 to 96

Campbell file 5, pages 97 to 125

Redacted page

Gerald James book: IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST (Extracts)

Wikipedia Evidence File

ROYAL DUTCH SHELL DOCUMENT: Update on Structural Changes: EC-1 Organisation: 8 June 09

FT ARTICLE 27 April 2006




Overpromise, Underdelivery

Oil Sands Telegraph Article 1 Jan 2009

Piper Introduction Page

PAYING FOR THE PIPER: 1996 and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.