MasterCard Launches 'Priceless' iPhone App

But Is Deal-Sharing Tool too Disconnected From Card's Sentimental Campaign?

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YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- There's an app for everything -- and now there's even one for everything else.

MasterCard's 'Priceless' iPhone app
MasterCard's 'Priceless' iPhone app
MasterCard, which has built its marketing around the theme, "There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's MasterCard," is extending that strategy with an iPhone app that allows users to upload their own "priceless" favorites into a socially networked nationwide grid. But in a seeming disconnect from the sentimental moments a MasterCard allows one to enjoy, as depicted in its 12-year-old ad campaign, the app seems to encourage consumers to share deals, bargains or simply favorite places they've "found," such as nail salons or florists. MasterCard also has deals with ShopLocal and Not for Tourists, which will also aggregate offer-related picks from merchants.

The 'brag factor'
"The human nature of people, call it the brag factor, is that they like to talk about things they've discovered," said Chris Jogis, senior VP-U.S. marketing for MasterCard Worldwide. While MasterCard would not disclose how many downloads the app has gotten since it launched earlier this month, a spokeswoman characterized it as "a very positive reception." Reviews from TechCrunch and several iPhone app review sites were generally upbeat.

A TV-only ad campaign launched last week in support of the app, featuring three creative executions in heavy rotation on network and cable. It will continue to run through the rest of the year. MasterCard's agency is McCann Erickson Worldwide, New York, part of Interpublic Group of Cos.

While the iPhone app is just one part of MasterCard's digital strategy, digital in general is a much bigger focus for the credit-card transaction giant. As the company sees it, there is an opportunity to connect more directly with consumers as well as provide value and utility for them while building a stronger brand connection, Mr. Jogis said.

He doesn't see an advertising disconnect with the campaign, which focuses on the freedom a MasterCard affords the holder to share experiences, vs. an app that allows consumers to share bargains. "Certainly most of the things we look to do are connected to convenient ways for consumers to buy things," he said, adding: "But even when it's about a deal or a great price, it's also about the find and the adventure and the experience."

Obvious advertising?
While Tom Anderson, managing partner of Anderson Analytics consultancy, said "user-generated reviews tied to GPS are great" and they do tie "perfectly to the MasterCard brand and specifically their much successful 'Priceless' slogan," he expressed concern about some of the obvious third-party deals communicated on the app in his local area.

"Ads I saw, such as '$10.99 2X Ultra Tide or Gain,' I would hardly consider 'priceless,'" Mr. Anderson said. "You only have one chance with an app like this. If users come to it and it smells like an ad, then it is an ad, and with no value added it will die quickly. ... No one wants to carry around a piece of advertising in their pocket."

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