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AMEX'S ADS NEEDLE RIVAL; VISA LABELS THEM 'UNFAIR': CHARGE CARD EMPLOYS TACTIC TO PROMOTE ITS SERVICES

By Published on .

American Express Co. has rattled Visa USA with its bitingly humorous TV and print campaign harping on Visa's lack of services and loyalty programs.

In a reversal of its longstanding policy of ignoring Visa's pointed TV ad swipes at the AmEx brand, AmEx has abandoned the high road and Visa is crying foul.

NATIONAL PRINT EFFORT

A national print campaign from AmEx broke last week, asking: "Visa says they're everywhere, but isn't it more important to have a card that helps you with just about everything?"

One ad featured an AmEx card beside a Visa card with Visa's services sarcastically described: "No medical referrals, but rounded corners for safety."

The print builds on a 60-second TV spot the company broke last month using humor to describe one traveler's headaches as he unsuccessfully tried to qualify for frequent travel awards and get free medical and legal help with his Visa card on a trip to Paris.

Ogilvy & Mather, New York, handles the effort, which continues AmEx's "Do more" theme supporting services including travel assistance, medical and legal referrals and the Membership Rewards loyalty program.

Visa called AmEx's ads "unfair, inaccurate and misleading," and the company has asked TV networks to stop airing the spot.

Visa says AmEx's ads are inaccurate because 85 million Visa Gold credit card customers receive free medical and legal services vs. a total 40 million AmEx customers who are eligible for such services.

NO RETALIATION PLANNED

Visa plans no retaliatory ads, but continues its ads promoting resorts that don't accept American Express cards-"a positioning that is fair and legal because there are so many places where American Express is not accepted," said Kelly Presta, Visa's director of public affairs.

BBDO Worldwide, New York, is the agency for Visa's "It's everywhere you want to be" campaign.

AmEx says its stance on comparative advertising hasn't changed.

"We're simply taking a tactical way of addressing the competition and differentiating our product, showing people that the service you get from American Express is different than what you get from other credit cards," an

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