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MASTERCARD'S CIRCLE OF SERVICES TOUTED INT'L PUSH FOR CIRRUS ATM, MAESTRO DEBIT CARDS

By Published on .

MasterCard International this week ignites a $10 million TV, radio and print campaign highlighting its ATM and debit cards worldwide.

The effort's international reach is a vital factor as MasterCard and bitter rival Visa International increasingly take their battle beyond the nearly saturated U.S. market.

The campaign kicks off Feb. 28 with a 60-second spot on CNN both internationally and in North America. The commercial will play up the MasterCard-owned Cirrus network of ATM machines and the Maestro network that allows debits to be subtracted directly from a consumer's home bank at retail outlets around the globe.

The goal is to spread the MasterCard image to Cirrus and Maestro, but the campaign also has the potential to raise the marketing stakes in the fight against top credit card brand Visa, and to a lesser extent Discover Card Services and American Express Co.

It also re-emphasizes the growing importance of the international arena for MasterCard as it battles for market share. MasterCard's 1993 global revenue hit $320.5 billion, of which 43% came from the U.S. Europe accounted for 24% and the Asia Pacific, 22%.

"We want to position consistently to consumers around the world that you have access to worldwide purchasing and worldwide cash," Dan Ciporin, MasterCard VP-global debit marketing, said by phone from Taipei, Taiwan.

The effort aims to influence the business traveler and the tourist, said Richard Mitchell, editor of POS News, Chicago. He explained: "As the U.S. market is nearly saturated, the international market is where you are going to see a lot more action."

And as MasterCard battles Visa, the two appear to be adopting distinctly different approaches.

MasterCard seems much more concerned with alerting consumers to the connection between the card and its other services, such as Cirrus and Maestro. Visa owns similar services like the Plus network of ATMs and the Interlink debit capability, but to date hasn't stitched them together as one brand.

"Our global focus is on the Visa brand, and we tailor campaigns locally to specific marketplaces, depending on the branding needs of members," said Una Sommerville, senior VP-product development at Visa.

MasterCard's Mr. Ciporin said his is the only company with ATM and point-of-sale debit services under common brands worldwide.

"MasterCard is saying you have to brand the systems and explain how all the systems interact," said credit card consultant Stephen Dress, senior VP at Affinity Partners, Wellesley Hills, Mass.

Cirrus' and Maestro's brand symbols feature interlocking circles reminiscent of MasterCard's. Said Mr. Dress: "The colors are not consistent and the names are not consistent, but MasterCard is hoping that by keeping the image consistent, then anything with interlocking circles will say MasterCard to the consumer."

The ad was prepared by CM Lintas International, sister shop of MasterCard's U.S. agency, Ammirati & Puris/Lintas, New York. MasterCard has used the London shop in the past, but a spokeswoman said CM Lintas got the nod for this campaign because the debit group "wanted to get an international flavor in the ads."

After kicking off the campaign on the corporate level, MasterCard will offer the commercial to its member banks to run in local markets.

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