YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- Alfredo Gangotena has been MasterCard CMO for only two months, but don't let that novice status fool you. The quintessential global CMO -- born in Germany, raised in Latin America -- he has lived on four continents, speaks four languages and has marketed products globally from diapers to Disneyland France. He joined MasterCard in 2004.
With the MasterCard brand now in 100 countries with differing financial situations and card-market maturities, Mr. Gangotena's globe-trotting career will come in handy as he works with McCann WorldGroup to further position the MasterCard brand globally.
Ad Age: What are some of the challenges and opportunities you see for MasterCard?
Mr. Gangotena: The company has been able to grow virtually every single year since its inception and the reason is that people are moving steadily away from cash and checks. ... However, the level of development or maturity of the market is varied to an incredibly high degree. Take a market such as Europe. You have "card friendly" countries such as the Nordic countries. ... Then you have countries like Germany, which is very modern and has the strongest economy in Europe, as we know, and yet people are just not card friendly. ...
Then you have the emerging markets with what I call "the quantum leap." They jump generations and they jump technologies. Take Brazil. Brazil has been a phenomenon in the development of the card business and in the presence of terminals, but at the same time, there is still tremendous potential [because] in that market, there is still a fairly large "unbanked" population.
If you then go to China, overnight you had the birth of the card business from literally zero to something like 800 million cards in just a couple of years. But the people in that market do not use cards the way you might think. In China, when you get your salary, instead of having it sent to your bank account, you receive it on your card, and then you go to the ATM machine to withdraw cash.
Ad Age: How do you deal with marketing to very different targets, sometimes in a small geographic area?
Mr. Gangotena: We have been very lucky to establish years ago a unique marketing platform and strategy expressed in the "Priceless" advertising. ... Priceless has been our platform in some 100 countries in 50 languages for these many years with the same message around the world. And that has unified the brand to make it meaningful whether you are Chinese, Brazilian, American or Russian.
Ad Age: How are your ad agencies structured so that they're delivering on the global "Priceless" message, as well as the issues specific to their area?
Mr. Gangotena: You can have a global message, but it needs to be delivered locally. Something new that we are starting to do is that in a given geography, for example an emerging market like Eastern Europe, we have three or four of the local agencies compete to deliver the best advertising for a given situation. The benefit is to stimulate competition and get better insights and better production. The second advantage is that if a film works in one country, it may also work in its neighbor, so we reduce production costs.
Ad Age: Is the global financial situation getting better? And how is MasterCard using marketing to address the changes?
Mr. Gangotena: [The financial crisis] has been an accelerator of history. Instead of a steady step-by-step evolution, "Boom!" it created not just shock, but also moved people ahead 10 years. One example is the environment issue. It has never been as acute as now, and that was exacerbated by the economic crisis. People said we need to spend less, and be a lot more careful with our money, and therefore we need fuel-efficient cars and, by the way, fuel-efficient cars are also good for the environment. ... Cost-consciousness is another example. ... There is a very strong push to consume the right amount, and then to dispose and recycle because recycling not only means saving your money, but saving the environment.