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API launches major advertising campaign for new heavy-duty engine oil category


By Aaron Stone

The current North American specification for heavy-duty engine oil is changing. The American Petroleum Institute (API) is splitting the spec into two — API CK-4 and FA-4. The first licensing of these products will commence 1 December 2016.

API has recently launched a major print, radio, PR and digital advertising campaign in an attempt to explain the intricacies of the upcoming changes to the public. The aptly positioned creative angle of the campaign informs customers it’s “time for an oil change.”

The API category denotes the performance level of the product. Understanding which one to use is important, as it will have an impact on how your diesel engine performs. API says the new category allows for “better engine protection, better fuel economy and a better livelihood.”

Essentially CK-4 will replace an older category called CJ-4. The viscometrics remain the same and CK-4 is fully backwards compatible, meaning no issues using the oils in an older engine. The second category, FA-4 is completely new. FA-4 oils will not necessarily be backwards compatible, but are designed to provide a fuel economy benefit. FA-4 is also unlikely to be recommended by every manufacturer.

At the risk of stating the obvious, customers need to learn if they are CK-4 or FA-4. There is concern amongst API members that consumers will become confused… and rightly so. Earlier research suggested, despite an audience reasonably conscious of what they use in their trucks, that 65% were unaware of the upcoming changes. 400 dealers, fleet managers, drivers, owner operators and retail workers were sampled, and the quantitative research was supplemented with 20 in-depth interviews and multiple visits to retailers.

Equally apparent was a lack of awareness of API standards and audiences not reading the label on the back of the bottle. One particular respondent’s comment summed up the opinion of many: “It needs to be more clear. I’ve rarely had my guys make a mistake with an oil change… but with this… 90% will go wrong at the beginning if this is the way it’s going to be.”

Results like these enforced API’s view that a broad awareness campaign was necessary. Requiring help in communicating with the industry, they enlisted the services of CoynePR – a full service, integrated, PR and communications agency.

From May 2016, API embarked on an extensive marketing campaign to tell the new category story. Historically, API has relied on traditional communications channels, such as email, to connect with its target audience. However, the consequential nature of the new specifications required a more noteworthy approach.

Employing learnings from the earlier research, API and CoynePR developed a three-phased creative and media execution to maximise reach and visibility. The objective of the campaign is to introduce the change, inform the affected public how to prepare, and to demonstrate the appropriate oil for each individual situation.

Campaign efforts will run through to the December 2016 launch, and look to maximise audience penetration across the trucking, construction and agriculture sectors. There is a heavy emphasis on print and radio media, with a significant share of voice across key industry publications and heavy load spots throughout the day on Road Dog Radio.

API launches major advertising campaign for new heavy-duty engine oil categoryAPI has also invested in a substantial digital and social component. Up to 756,000 online ad impressions will be served in October alone on highly targeted websites, alongside considerable weight in search, all directing consumers to the API CK-4/FA-4 site to learn about the new standard. A tailored PR strategy, comprising relevant content and media releases and engaging directly with industry media influencers is also central to the campaign.

All-in-all, API has gone to considerable effort to generate awareness of the new engine oil category. How effective have these efforts been in spreading the word on API CK-4 and API FA-4? December 1 is rapidly approaching, so we’ll soon know.

If you’re affected but have been previously unaware of the changes and would like the “cliff notes” then here goes… If your engine is model 2016 or older – you’re a CK-4. Anything later than that and you’re an FA-4.