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15 Years On - History Says Pennzoil Blew-it! - Dick Westman Visionary Advertising Man, Internet Believer, Auto Channel Futurist and My Friend Passes


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Louisville KY

October 26, 2004

Some personal thoughts on the passing of a dear friend, caring father, and loving husband.

Dick Westman was a visionary…he saw the future and bet on it!

In 1995 as the president of the ad agency for Pennzoil Products, Dick intuitivly and intelectualy recognized the potential of The Internet.

Although he was not really computer literate at that time, along with most of us, he fore-saw just how powerful the new medium would become.

In his role as the person responsible for the advertising success of the Pennzoil brand, Dick already a mature experienced ad man, looked to the future and stuck out his neck for his client.

Before there was an organized on-line advertising effort, Dick understood that that Pennzoil could establish and own the position as the high-tech motor oil products leader in the coming world of interactive marketing.

When Dick was finally convinced that the team from The Auto Channel could really do what they said they could, he brought The Auto Channel title sponsorship opportunity to Bob Merz vice-president of advertising and marketing for Pennzoil.

Bob an experienced marketing person himself, had been asked to bet on the future at least once before. As an ad executive with Bush Beer, Bob championed their decision to become the exclusive Beer advertiser on ESPN for an initial ten year period.

In spite of the fact that the fledgling all sports cable network was airing programs like Australian rules football and other obscure sport events Bob believed that some day Bush's commitment to a long term beer exclusivity on ESPN would be worth its weight in gold, and it was.

After much due diligence and fact finding and negotiations at meetings meetings meetings, Pennzoil’s sponsorship of The Auto Channel became a reality.

Dick’s recommendation was acted upon by Bob, and Pennzoil became the Exclusive Motor Oil sponsor of The Auto Channel for an initial two year period.

That 1996 million dollar plus media buy was the Internet’s largest and most important advertising sponsorship and helped establish The Internet as an advertising medium long before the boys from Yahoo got it and long before contextual advertising became the words on the cool guys lips.

Pennzoil as the title sponsor of The Auto Channel also became the sponsor of the Internet's first live streaming motor sports events on-line, the first live TV-on-the- web coverage from the major auto shows, the first Live TV-on- the-web coverage of important automotive industry press conferences, and the sponsor of the first on-line new car and truck data base that provided Invoice Pricing and New Car Specs free to users on the Internet.

In effect Pennzoil was the first sponsor of what was to become the most watched editorial automotive site on the web.

But as so often happens in this business, Bob Merz was replaced as Pennzoil’s VP, and what was once considered a brilliant idea soon became a bad idea.

The new guys brought in their own ad agency, and so what was once a visionary long term strategy...to position Pennzoil as THE technology leader, became just the another of the old ad agency’s bad ideas…and what should have been a permanent on-line automotive platform from which Pennzoil could lead, fell by the wayside.

Hey Dick You Were Right and They Were and Are Still Wrong!

The Internet Is Important and Is Here To Stay.

The Auto Channel is Important and is Here To Stay

You were always too nice and too professional to say it, so I will...Pennzoil Blew-it!

Rest in Peace My Friend.

I will miss you.

The World Will Miss You!

Bob Gordon, President and Co-Publisher
The Auto Channel


Published in the Houston Chronicle on 10/27/2004.


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RICHARD J. ("DICK") WESTMAN died on Monday, October 25, 2004 in Houston, Texas at the age of 79. Mr. Westman worked his entire career in the Advertising and Marketing industries. He is survived by his wife, Connie Westman and his daughters, Ricki Martinez and Ann Gawith. A Memorial Mass will be celebrated on Friday, October 29, 2004 at eleven o'clock in the morning at All Saints Catholic Church, 215 East 10th Street, with Msgr. Adam S. McClosky, Celebrant. The family also invites friends to a celebration of Dick's life on Sunday, October 31, 2004 from one until three o'clock in the afternoon at The Last Concert Café, 1403 Nance. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to the American Cancer Society-Greater Houston Area, PO Box 570127, Houston, Texas 77257.


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