Not catchy, not creative, but Visa found a keeper

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One thing you've got to say about Visa: This is not an impetuous organization.

Some marketers go flitting from campaign to campaign, slogan to slogan, agency to agency on the vaguest impulse. Visa stuck with BBDO and "Everywhere You Want to Be" for 25 years.

Just to put that in perspective, when that campaign first broke, Reagan was president, Christopher Cross was a superstar and Saddam Hussein was our ally. And just to put that in perspective, in the same period, Burger King had changed agencies at least eight times and run 197,000 different campaigns.

So let's just say that whatever succeeds "Everywhere You Want to Be" deserves the benefit of the doubt. Which is probably good for TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles, because a first glance at "Life Takes Visa" looks like a real dud.

It does, after all, sound an awful lot like American Express' "My Life, My Card." And it does mimic both AmEx and MasterCard in their invocation of values and lifestyle, as opposed to such practical benefits as widespread acceptance-the selling point Visa flogged for the past quarter century.

Then there's the text itself. "Life Takes Visa" comes off initially as weirdly pedestrian, puffy and meaningless at the same time. For this, one might inquire, they waited 25 years?

But once again, as the answer to that question is "yes," the new slogan bears at least a second look. And, lo and behold, after a little mulling, the view improves. Mind you, nobody who saw them on the Olympics will be talking about the ads at the water cooler Monday, or ever. But buzz is transitory, and transitory is not what this company is about.

First of all, on the most basic level, in "Life Takes Visa" there is double entendre hard at work. "Takes" can be read as "requires," or as "accepts." Every execution in every medium plays on that double meaning, and is compelling in varying degrees. The better ones have some wit and irony in their observation: "Life takes curiosity," says one headline. The image is a little kid outside on a wintry day about to stick his tongue to an icy metal pole.

OK, sure, the worst examples look like those cheesy workplace motivational posters. If you can explain why "Life Takes Perspective," featuring an upside-down snowboarder in mid-air, is a less insufferably Pollyanna message than a picture of a rock climber above the word "Perseverance," we'd be happy to be enlightened.

No point in nitpicking individual ads, however. Assuming this campaign will be around for a while, the main questions are more general:

1) How sustainable is the rubric? "Life Takes Curiosity" scans well enough, but how long before we start seeing headlines like "Life Takes Diffractometry?"

2) How adaptable is it to the financial future? "Life Takes Visa" will have to take Visa into a world of virtual banking, micropayments and who-knows-what all Jetsonian technology.

On the second point, we're optimistic. The very maddening vagueness of the slogan offers flexibility for future adaptation, even if we all have debit chips implanted under our scalps at birth. As for sustainability, well, damn it, the dictionary has lots of words in it. MasterCard has a similar theoretical problem with its "Priceless" campaign, and still manages to be able to scrounge up some nouns on demand-and they have to do it in clusters of three at a time.

Granted, Cannes won't notice this stuff. It may take five years for consumers to notice this stuff. But "Life Takes Visa" will take Visa into the foreseeable future, and that's everywhere this advertiser wants to be.

Review 3 stars

Ad: Visa

Agency: TBWA/Chiat/Day

Location: Los Angeles

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