Patrick Grieve
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Quaker State Teams With “The Onion” for More Sarcastic Ads

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Quaker State and The Onion's advertising agency, Onion Labs, create funny motor oil commercials

The satirical news publication The Onion and the motor oil company Quaker State may seem like an odd pairing at first glance… and at second glance, to be honest. In fact, when I went to The Onion’s website and searched their archives, I couldn’t find an article that had ever even mentioned Quaker State.

But since 2013, The Onion hasn’t just been producing fake news, but also real commercials, thanks to its Onion Labs advertising agency. Not surprisingly, though, the commercials they’ve been making play more like parodies than the real thing.

For example, take this Onion Labs-produced Quaker State ad, which starts off predictably enough, before morphing into something a little cleverer than your average motor oil commercial:

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The video begins like any other cliché car product commercial, with a gruff voiceover, glamour shots of a vintage muscle car and the sexy eye-candy leaning up against it, and some typically cheesy lines.

But then the fourth wall comes crashing down, and we get a humorous “behind-the-scenes” skit about an overly-passionate commercial director who’s looking to find the truth in this commercial. That leads him to have the gorgeous model trade places with the microphone grip, who delivers the perfect tagline: “it’s just damn good oil.”

Almost all of the other videos follow the same formula: a parody of some type of marketing strategy, followed by the conceit that Quaker State doesn’t need such gimmickry to sell its product, and ending with the “damn good oil” catchphrase.

Like in this ad, titled “Think Tank”:

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In their “Jingle Wranglers” videos, they manage to mock traditional marketing, Millennial-pandering, reality competition shows, and Skrillex:

These sorts of self-conscious ads always risk becoming a bit too “cutesy” and ultimately being as obnoxious as what they’re parodying, but Quaker State and Onion Labs seem to have found a nice balance.

You can see more of the videos at Quaker State’s YouTube page.

  • Patrick GrieveEditor

    Patrick Grieve was born in Southwestern Ohio and has lived there all of his life, with the exception of a few years spent getting a Creative Writing degree in Southeastern Ohio. He loves to take road trips, sometimes to places as distant as Northeastern or even Northwestern Ohio. Patrick also enjoys old movies, shopping at thrift stores, going to ballgames, writing about those things, and watching Law & Order reruns. He just watches the original series, though, none of the spin-offs. And also only the ones they made before Jerry Orbach died. Season five was really the peak, in his opinion. See more articles by Patrick.