Magazine article American Banker

Visa, MasterCard, AMEX Boost Web Advertising

Magazine article American Banker

Visa, MasterCard, AMEX Boost Web Advertising

Article excerpt

Visa U.S.A., MasterCard International, and American Express Co. are increasing their advertising and promotions over the World Wide Web.

More of their banner ads are appearing on popular Web sites. In some cases the card rivals are promoting electronic commerce through partnerships with merchants and by trying to reassure consumers about security.

As Internet usage grows and more shopping is done on-line, card marketing executives hope they are ensuring that their respective brands will be at least as strong in cyberspace.

Debra M. Coughlin, senior vice president of global advertising and marketing communications for MasterCard, likens Internet shopping to the adoption of automated teller machines.

"It's the three-time rule," she said. "Once consumers used ATMs three times they were hooked, and we should see the same on the Web."

Web site addresses on credit card applications have become almost as ubiquitous as toll-free numbers. Hyperlinks to the major card brands can be found all over the electronic landscape.

Branding experts say the work Visa and MasterCard are doing will pay off for their member banks.

The Internet "is definitely a viable avenue for new business," said Brannon M. Cashion, a consultant at Addison Whitney, a corporate identity consulting firm in Charlotte, N.C. "The companies that have secure pages and browsers-and can promote that security-will be the leaders in this next wave of financial services."

Industry executives expect that using credit cards on the Internet-to pay a bill or make a purchase-will be as commonplace as writing paper checks is today.

Mr. Cashion said companies are "taking proactive steps to leverage their brand over the multimedia waves."

American Express has leaped into the Internet with far more than static "brochureware" and on-line applications. The company allows cardholders to look up balances on the Internet and offers an on-line brokerage service.

A strong Web presence is just another link to consumers, said Molly Faust, an American Express spokeswoman. "We realize that more and more of our customers are using the Internet every day," she said.

Visa uses the Internet to showcase its sponsorships and corporate affiliations. As part of Visa's effort to link its brand to entertainment, dining, and travel, its advertising banners can connect Web surfers to Conde Nast's international restaurant guide and to weekly arts and entertainment listings from The New York Times.

"Our members' products have certain associations in the minds of consumers," said Elizabeth Silver, vice president of advertising, Visa U.S.A.

The banner ads are meant "to drive traffic to particularly rich areas of content," she said. Visa's home page also offers information for small- business and home-office customers. …

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