MASTERCARD TAPS MCCANN TO REIGNITE AD EFFORTS SELECTION ENDS 6-MONTH PERIOD WITHOUT AN AGENCY

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MasterCard International has tapped McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, to handle creative for its $100 million ad account.

The decision ends a six-month review during which the No. 2 card company lacked an ad shop. Former agency Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, resigned in March after learning of the search.

MasterCard is hoping McCann will jump-start marketing efforts that have more or less languished since spring. In that time, archrival Visa USA has broken new TV spots for its platinum and debit products.

"We're confident that McCann-Erickson will help us effectively and consistently convey our vision in a way that differentiates MasterCard from its competition and is relevant to consumers," Nick Utton, senior VP-marketing, said in a statement.

MasterCard chose McCann because it liked the shop's ideas on how to strategically position the card, agency President Jim Heekin said. He declined to give details.

CREATING A BOND

"Everybody's got a card in their wallet," he said. "The trick is to make consumers feel differently about MasterCard-to create a bond with the consumers."

Mr. Heekin said the theme would carry over into promotions, sponsorships and other marketing elements.

MasterCard said the new creative will break in the fourth quarter; an ad executive close to the review expects ads to break in October (AA, Sept. 1).

MasterCard didn't disclose whether the ads would stick to the "Future of money" tagline developed by Ammirati. When the review started, the marketer indicated agencies needed to stick with the theme, although not necessarily as the tag.

BIGGER ISSUES

MasterCard has bigger issues than wording if it wants to reclaim share it has lost to Visa over the years, industry observers said.

The brand has taken a beating in the bank-issued card segment it shares with Visa, according to figures from industry newsletter Nilson Report. MasterCard posted a 34% share of transactions in 1996, down from 35% in 1995. Its presence could erode to 33% or less in 1997.

"MasterCard has a very tough challenge because to date they've been unable to carve out a positioning that's meaningful and differentiated from Visa," said Richard Evans, president of consultancy Evans & Associates.

VISA OUTSPENDS MASTERCARD

Visa has been outspending MasterCard in measured media advertising, according to Competitive Media Reporting. It spent $220 million on advertising during 1996, compared to MasterCard's $99 million, according to CMR. During the first quarter of '97, MasterCard ad spending fell 39.2% from the year-earlier period, to $15.2 million, while Visa boosted spending 8.4%.

GSD&M, Austin, Texas, retains U.S. media buying and planning responsibilities for MasterCard.

Losing in the final round for the creative assignment was Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York. But the shop will continue in its role as MasterCard's promotional agency, said a spokeswoman for the card company.M

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