How Visa Uses Gaming to Push Its Fraud Protection

Q&A: New-Media Chief Says 'CSI' Partnership Helps Consumers Understand the Brand

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Visa has been on the cutting edge of interactive, and now mobile, marketing. It hired Creative Artists Agency to seek out branded-entertainment opportunities, and since appointing Jon Raj in 2005 as VP-advertising and emerging platforms, Visa has experimented with online and mobile programs such as this fall's launch of a wine-and-food pairing program on mobile phones at two grocery chains. The video game "CSI 4: Hard Evidence" plugs Visa's security features for detecting fraudulent purchases. More than a product placement, it integrates the product's attributes to solve the mystery. The marketer also works with CAA for broader entertainment opportunities.
Jon Raj
Jon Raj says brand integrations with video games like 'CSI4' help 'make sure consumers see how relevant Visa is in their lives.'

Mr. Raj discusses how new platforms like mobile and gaming are shaping up.

Madison & Vine: In terms of the gaming space what works, and what hasn't, in terms of branded content?

Jon Raj: We are looking at a lot of emerging media, of course, gaming and mobile and DVR and VOD [video on demand] and so on. The gaming space is particularly interesting not only because of the obvious growth that has taken place there, but the target is certainly beyond what has been originally perceived as the young male audience. Actually, it's everybody.

About a year ago, we did a partnership with the game "CSI," and we weren't really interested in doing what was being done at the time, which was putting up banners in sports games or tagging a Visa logo up somewhere. We really wanted to integrate Visa, in this case Visa's "multiple layers of security" campaign, into the game, make it an integral part of solving the "CSI" mystery. We did that. We've been measuring it since then. We did different types of research and we were very satisfied with the results, so much so that we're going to be in "CSI 4," which can be played on PlayStation, Wii and Xbox as well as PCs.

M&V: Will that "CSI" partnership extend to mobile?

Mr. Raj: No.

M&V: Why not just put your money into traditional branded content, or media for that matter?

Mr. Raj: Certainly, we find the value in television spots, radio, outdoor and traditional media. But when you really have the opportunity to put yourself into a position where a user is interacting with something, in this case a game, where it's not just seeing your logo out there like you would at a sporting event, when Visa is actually solving the puzzle or the mystery, it really makes the consumer, the user of this game, understand what we were talking about when we were talking about fraud protection. It's very different than having your logo on a door in a game or a billboard in a sporting event. This is something that we've seen the results and probably we'll want to roll out in scale in the future.

Visa uses its integration in 'CSI 4: Hard Evidence' to highlight its services.

M&V: What kind of results?

Mr. Raj: Similar to the online space, we're looking at, "Is the message coming through? Are the attributes we want to grow being grown here?" and we looked at those who played the game vs. those that haven't.

M&V: Any data on that?

Mr. Raj: That's something we don't talk about that.

M&V: How does Visa decide what project to back, or what content it wants to be affiliated with?

Mr. Raj: It really comes down to what we are trying to achieve and what is the best way of achieving that. One thing we don't do is we don't say, "We need to be in gaming" or "We need to be in mobile." We say, "How do we achieve our objectives?" We look beyond the traditional. It's not so much about the media as it is about being in relevant places for our consumers and being meaningful for them.

M&V: How important or powerful is mobile in terms of branded content?

Mr. Raj: I really believe mobile is potentially one of the greatest out-of-home advertising there is. ... We're in the early stages, and it's more about learning than about results. But very, very soon, it's going to be still learning, but more about results.

M&V: Are Visa's mobile efforts paving the way for the so-called mobile wallet, where the mobile phone can be used to charge merchandise?

Mr. Raj: We look at mobile as a huge opportunity that has many different aspects to it beyond advertising and marketing. We want to make sure consumers see how relevant Visa is in their lives, and I think mobile is one of the utilities that can make it more relevant to them. We had pre-emptive strategy in the online space. We wanted to make sure we didn't wake up in 2007 and find any of our competitors took over the space.

M&V: What specific agencies work on your branded-entertainment projects?

Mr. Raj: OMD [Omnicom's media-buying agency] spearheaded the "CSI" game. AKQA handles our digital work and our mobile work. TBWA/Chiat/Day is our creative agency. Visa also has relationships with Creative Artists and First Fireworks Group.