Visa Ads Take On Cash For First Time

One key rival of credit is cash. Visa USA goes head-to-head with it next month, when the new installment of its "Life Takes Visa" campaign urges customers to use the Visa check card rather than cash when paying for purchases. The campaign emphasizes the ease of making everyday purchases with Visa's "No Signature Required" program.

Visa says cash and checks represent a $21 trillion opportunity for itself, and for other card companies able to convince customers that charging is preferable to handing over actual dollars and cents.

Cash accounts for 20 percent of all consumer spending, credit cards for 25 percent, and debit cards for 12 percent, according to David Robertson, publisher of The Nilson Report. (The remaining 43 percent are paid for by other means that include checks, money orders, food stamps, cashiers checks, travelers cheques, official checks, remote electronic payments, and pre-authorized electronic payments.)

Overall sales volume on Visa-branded cards--which included credit, debit and commercial cards--totaled $257 billion during last year's holiday period--a 17.5 increase over the 2004 season. Visa is looking to repeat, or increase, its overall sales volume this year.

Since the market for credit customers is saturated, finding new ways to promote card usage has become the thrust of more recent card marketing initiatives. Another case in point: American Express has introduced a gift insurance receipt to differentiate the advantage of using its card to charge a purchase rather than paying by cash, check or debit card. The receipt, downloadable by the card holder to be packaged with a gift charged to an Amex card, reminds the gift recipient that the purchase is covered by Amex buyer protection services.

Visa USA's newest TV commercial--titled "Lunch" and airing through January--shows customers smoothly and swiftly moving through a busy deli at lunchtime. "Lunch" will be supported by out-of-home ads starting in December and January in 11 markets including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Charlotte and Boston. The out-of-home ads reinforce benefits of the Visa check card, such as security and convenience. The ads will appear on traditional billboards, bus sides and shelters, coffee sleeves, phone kiosks, and window clings at convenience stories.

"Our goal was to create a highly visual and creative commercial that brings to life the speed, efficiency and convenience of Visa. This new spot illustrates how Visa streamlines checkout for both merchants and customers, especially for small-ticket purchases less than $25," said Kevin Burke, senior vice president, advertising, brand and Web, Visa USA.

Visa's No Signature Required program waives the signature requirement for qualifying transactions of less than $25 in 17 merchant categories, including quick service restaurants, taxis, movie theaters and drug stores or pharmacies. By the end of 2006, Visa estimates as many as 27 percent of all its transactions will qualify for its No Signature Required program.