Visa Turns to CAA for Entertainment Deals

Credit-Card Marketer Sees Hollywood as Way to Appeal to Consumers

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LOS ANGELES -- Life takes Visa. But it apparently also requires CAA.
CAA will collaborate with Visa's agency partners FirstFireworks and OMD on future projects.

The San Francisco-based credit card company has enlisted Creative Artists Agency, in Los Angeles, to seek out opportunities for the company in all areas of entertainment.

However, CAA will not exclusively represent Visa as part of the deal. Visa will continue to work with FirstFireworks and OMD, a unit of Omnicom Group, which have brokered Visa's entertainment deals in the past.

TV and film deals

FirstFireworks, also based in Los Angeles, has served as Visa's entertainment agency since 2003, managing the company's alliance with the Walt Disney Co., and developing film campaigns such as its tie-in with "National Treasure."

Meanwhile, media buyer OMD has handled Visa's TV appearances in such shows as "Survivor," "The Apprentice" and this summer's "Treasure Hunters."

Visa also worked directly with Sony, Broadway, the House of Blues, and sports properties such as the Olympics, the National Football League and Nascar in the past.

CAA will collaborate with FirstFireworks and OMD on future projects.

However, Visa's move to recruit CAA signals that the company is looking to step up its presence in Hollywood and aggressively use entertainment as a marketing tool to help boost its image and further set itself apart from close rivals MasterCard, American Express and Discover.

New campaign

It comes as Visa recently retired its 20-year-old "Everywhere You Want to Be" slogan and launched its "Life Takes Visa" campaign in an effort to create a more emotional connection with consumers.

The effort shows images of regular people in random situations ranging from the ordinary to the extraordinary, backed by words describing what life takes: "ambition," "practice," "luck," "tradition," "exploration," "determination," "joy" and "spontaneity," among others.

Visa hasn't disclosed just how much it plans to spend on the campaign, which rolled out with the Winter Olympics, but it hopes to generate more than 4 billion impressions within the next three months through ads on TV, in print, on billboards and across the Internet. It spent $350 million on media in 2004, according to TNS Media Intelligence, compared to $330 million for MasterCard and $400 million for American Express.

More than 488 million Visa-branded cards have been issued to cardholders in the U.S.; there are more than 1 billion of the cards worldwide, accounting for more than $3 trillion in annual transactions.

Emotional connection with consumers

Hollywood has long argued that nothing can create an emotional connection better than movies, TV shows, music, theater, books or video games. And Visa may have been taking notes.

"Entertainment represents a powerful and relevant medium for Visa to reach passionate consumers," said Michael Lynch, senior VP, Visa USA. "The addition of CAA creates a powerhouse team of agency partners that will help Visa reinforce and expand our brand promise and support our products, while providing compelling and unique value to members, merchants and cardholders."

By pairing up with entertainment, Visa is looking to push the fact that it is no longer just a credit-card company and offers a variety of financial services such as electronic payment, debit and commercial products.

In March, the company broke new ground in the area of product placement in video games by prominently appearing in the Ubisoft game "CSI 3: Dimensions of Murder," based on the hit CBS TV series. In the game, Visa worked its fraud-protection service into the plot.

"Visa understands how evocative and emotional entertainment experiences can be," said Lenny Stern, head of CAA Marketing and a partner at independent strategic communications firm SS&K. "Visa's focus on helping consumers get the most out of life resonates strongly in the world of entertainment, where making an emotional connection between content and consumer is paramount."

Another marketer for CAA

The addition of Visa gives CAA's marketing department yet another heavy hitter. Its client roster also includes Procter & Gamble Co., the Coca-Cola Co., Hasbro, Sprint Nextel, Delta and Song Airlines, Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister, Boost Mobile, Harley-Davidson and Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
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