MasterCard To Debut PayPass Ad On Academy Awards

To build awareness for its contact-free payment method and increase consumer acceptance, the first commercial promoting MasterCard Worldwide's PayPass will air during Sunday's broadcast of the 79th Annual Academy Awards.

In addition to the commercial, MasterCard will post five tongue-in-cheek vignettes tomorrow exclusively on Priceless.com. The online-only spots, which feature various celebrities tapping on the go, seek to entice consumers to the site to learn more about how PayPass works and to get a card.

The 60-second spot, titled "Ella Phant" for its starring elephant, was directed by Jim Sheridan, who has two other ads in MasterCard's long-running "Priceless" series to his credit. The new spot shows the ease and safety of using the contact-free payment method when an elephant leaves her ailing zookeeper and heads into the city with her PayPass and quickly and easily buys tissues, medicine, soup and a blanket.

PayPass is intended for environments where speed is essential, such as fast feeders, convenience stores, sports complexes, vending machines and parking lots. MasterCard developed the technology, and now licenses it to both Visa and American Express. MasterCard reports more than 13 million PayPass cards or devices are in the marketplace, where they are accepted at 46,000 merchant locations worldwide, including at 7-Eleven, McDonald's and CVS.

Among the stars featured in supporting vignettes at Priceless.com are movie critic Gene Shalit buying movie tickets and popcorn, competitive eaters Takeru Kobayashi and Sonya Thomas buying hot dogs in a convenience store, comedian David Cross hailing a cab while moving to his new apartment one block down the street, and pro football player Vinny Testaverde buying refreshments at a stadium during a football game.

About a quarter of all American homes are expected to tune in to Oscar-fest, which this year features ads from other financial services companies--including American Express, whose spokesperson, daytime TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, is also the emcee of this year's Academy Awards. Bank of America has said it will bow its first commercial sporting a new tagline to replace the four-year-old "Higher Standards."

Ratings for the Academy Awards, while strong, have declined the last four years. Household ratings in 2004 reached 26.0 then dropped to 25.4 in 2005 and to 23.1 last year.

"MasterCard is thrilled to be launching a host of creative to coincide with one of the most anticipated television events of the year," said Amy Fuller, group executive, Americas Marketing for MasterCard Worldwide. "It will be an engaging experience for consumers to see a fantastic and compelling 60-second TV spot and then be able to log onto Priceless.com to view five others starring some familiar personalities, all in situations that warrant the use of PayPass."