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Another classic example of Shell management arrogance, incompetence and breathtaking deceit


Incentive Today: Page 10. Nov/Dec 1995

Complaints brought against Shell’s 1994 ‘Make Money’ promotion by the Shell Corporate Pressure Group and Don Marketing have not been upheld. The complainants claimed that the promotion which involved matching two halves of the same value note for a cash prize – was severely flawed, as it was possible for staff to identify envelopes which contained the winning half notes. Following investigation, the watchdog ruled that the risk of staff being able to breach the security of the game was ‘no greater than the likelihood of unfair acts by other means’ and that the Codes had not been breached.

Marketing Week: ASA dragged into Shell UK Smart battle

7 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.”

Link to Original Articles

Background Information: the true extraordinary facts

By John Donovan

14 July 2008

After discovering that contrary to assurances given to me by Shell UK’s National Promotions Manager, Shell was secretly printing a multimillion pounds Make Money game without our consent, even though we held joint rights, we issued High Court injunctive proceedings against Shell.  Having been caught red-handed stealing our intellectual property, Shell settled by making a substantial payment to us. Frankly we were shocked at the arrogance, lies and subterfuge.

On 17th May 1994, when Shell launched the bootleg Make Money game, we were astonished to discover that the game pieces were insecure to the extent that potentially, staff at participating sites could pick out all of the winning envelopes. Shell was well aware that there is no foolproof way to prevent dishonest staff from submitting claims using friends’ addresses. We notified David Pirret (Shell UK’s General Manager at the time) and David Varney, the MD. We also notified Sir John Jennings, the then Chairman of “Shell” Transport and Trading Co Plc.

On 19th May 1994, Shell took up our invitation to attend a meeting at the Fleet Street offices of Royds solicitors where we conclusively demonstrated the insecurity of the bootleg Make Money game. This was done in the presence of a Royds partner, solicitor, Richard Woodman.

Shell sent a delegation of three people: Peter Whyte of Shell Retail; Alan Williams from Shell’s Legal Division, and Nigel Rowley from Mackrell Turner Garrett, the London law firm representing Shell. With the aid of a Don Marketing colleague, I correctly identified the supposedly hidden content of 7 out of the first 10 Make Money envelopes and then guaranteed a 100% success rate for all subsequent envelopes. We achieved this feat without opening the envelopes. Shell’s representatives did not take up the offer to continue any further with the demonstration and scuttled back to Shell Mex House.

Our subsequent offer to identify the flaws in the security of the Make Money envelopes which enabled the “winners” to be easily identified was declined by Shell. Mr Rowley stated in a letter, “Shell could see no advantage in knowing”. Shell continued to operate the game for its full promotional period despite knowing that dishonest staff could remove all winners before they ever reached customers on Shell forecourts.

We were later instructed in writing by Mr Rowley not to supply the Advertising Standards Authority with important information about the investigation it was carrying out into the flawed Make Money game. In other words, Shell deliberately obstructed an official investigation. We still have the correspondence proving this fact. For some unknown reason, when in 1998 we advised the Advertising Standards Authority about Shell’s conduct in ordering us to withhold evidence, the ASA refused to reopen the case. 

We did however suggest to Shell senior management that it should fly a pirates flag atop Shell Mex House as fair warning to all who entered innocently believing they were dealing with an ethical company. 

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

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