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SAN FRANCISCO – Visa may have been where Americans wanted to be for the last two decades, but beginning Feb. 10, 2006 a new ad campaign will suggest to consumers that it is necessary for life itself. The No. 1 card brand will launch “Life Takes Visa,” its first new branding campaign in 20 years on Feb. 10, saying that it will build upon the previous tag line “it’s everywhere you want to be” which was meant to illustrate and build upon card acceptance. Visa intends for the new campaign to surpass the old with the idea that Visa’s leader in the payments industry makes it something necessary for all of life. “Visa is the most recognized, most accepted and most utilized payment brand in the world – not just because of where you can pay, but because of what you can do with Visa,” said Susanne D. Lyons, chief marketing officer for Visa USA. “`Life Takes Visa’ reinforces our brand promise to deliver innovative products and services that can be used anytime, anywhere and that empower Visa cardholders to experience life and business their way and on their terms.” “It’s everywhere you want to be” worked well for the card industry at the time it was launched, Lyons explained, but the industry has changed since then and mere acceptance is not as defining an aspect as it was once was. The previous campaign was extraordinarily successful. In the past 10 years alone, Visa has grown from being accepted at three million merchant locations to being accepted at more than six million locations, and annual volume has more than tripled from $263 billion in volume to more than $1.1 trillion in 2005, the brand reported. The new campaign will focus on the sorts of qualities, such as determination, exploration, practice, wonder, and curiosity that it suggests that people need to get the most out of life – and it will further suggest Visa is as necessary as those qualities. “We decided to base the campaign around the idea of empowerment because, in many ways, that is a natural progression from acceptance,” Lyons explained. “And we wanted to convey the idea that Visa is a part of all aspects of a life, from the things that people have to do every day to the things that they want to do to the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that they might strive to have.” She explained that the brand decided to launch the campaign during the coming Winter Olympics, rather than during the SuperBowl, for a number of reasons, including the fact that Visa has had a 20-year relationship with the Olympics and will have an exclusive ad field for 17 days. That sort of sustained exposure was just not possible at the SuperBowl where there was too much competition for viewers’ attention with some ads focused more or less on being loud, Lyons explained. Lyons would not say how much the campaign would cost but did suggest that it would run about 10% more than what the card brand spent in 2004. According to publications which track the advertising industry, Visa spent about $363 million on U.S. advertising last year. Lyons told reporters that the campaign would begin with a television splash but would, over the longer term, focus more on print advertising and outdoor, billboard advertising in its initial stages. Later advertising campaigns that are product specific, such as for debit and prepaid, would follow as will campaigns geared to the Hispanic market, she explained. The Hispanic campaign will originate with a different advertising agency which specializes in that market, Lyons said. “We have found from previous research that Hispanic marketing required messages which focus on different concerns specific to that community,” she explained. “For example, Hispanic consumers tend to be more skeptical of using cards and not cash for purchases so we hit that theme a lot harder in Spanish language advertising,” she added. Financial analysts who track the brand remained in the background during the discussion of the campaign, but several observed generally that Visa was a little late in coming to the idea of using an emotional connection to sell the use of the card. They pointed out that MasterCard has been using its Priceless campaign for some time to push the idea of using MasterCard to get at the really important and Priceless aspects of life and that American Express has done a good job of marketing its membership as a signature aspect of having attained a measure of success in life. Visa hinted that the brand change will help with the other changes that it is making, such as the board reorganization, and will situate the payments giant for any upcoming fight on interchange that might be looming. Significantly, Lyons said Visa would be looking to work with members, such as credit unions, on ways to position its products uniquely in the payment field and work against the progressive commoditization of the payments industry. “I agree that there has been a degree of commoditization in the payments industry and we will be looking to our members for help and ideas on how we can de-commodify this industry,” Lyons said. [email protected]

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