VISA'S GLOBAL STRATEGIES TO GO UNDER MICROSCOPE RETHINKING PLANS FOLLOWS JAN SODERSTROM TO NEW POST

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Visa International is rethinking its global marketing strategies, now that longtime U.S. advertising and marketing chief Jan Soderstrom is taking over international ad duties.

The woman who oversaw Visa USA's advertising-including its highly successful "Visa. It's everywhere you want to be" work from BBDO Worldwide, New York-will now apply the same aggressiveness to Visa's worldwide presence as competition heightens among all three major credit card brands.

INTERNATIONAL DUTIES

Ms. Soderstrom, 49, an 11-year Visa veteran, becomes exec VP-marketing at Visa International, succeeding John Bennett, who retires this week. She will continue to serve as senior VP-advertising and marketing at Visa USA until a successor is found.

Ms. Soderstrom won't reveal all the plans up her sleeve, but one thing is certain: Visa will not follow rival American Express Co.'s lead in creating one monolithic global ad campaign for all international markets.

"There's no global advertising per se-no two markets are alike, and there are so many differences among countries, regions and cultures that it doesn't make sense to use a single ad campaign everywhere," Ms. Soderstrom said.

By contrast, AmEx is in the midst of rolling out a huge global campaign from Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, estimated at more than $200 million and adaptable through voice-overs and technical changes for use in multiple markets.

`SINGLE BRAND IDENTITY'

Visa will concentrate on honing a "single brand identity" that will be communicated in various "relevant and appropriate" advertising forms in different markets, said Ms. Soderstrom.

Some industry critics believe Visa lacks a clear identity worldwide and has focused too heavily in the U.S. on beating rivals in merchant acceptance, an aspect less relevant in new international markets.

"We've consistently taken away perceptual advantages from American Express in our global positioning," Ms. Soderstrom countered. "We're perceived as the superior card for international travel, entertainment and shopping, and we plan to widen the gap even further."

Visa will continue to rely heavily on TV in international markets, but Ms. Soderstrom said she will initiate more efficiency of media through integration and will use interactive media to target young adults worldwide.

REACHING THE MASSES

"TV continues to command the highest numbers of all media. We kid ourselves that there's another way to reach the masses, but so far there isn't," she said.

The company will continue to buy media locally, but Ms. Soderstrom said there are "many opportunities for making media more efficient where appropriate."

The Olympics, which Visa has sponsored internationally since 1988, is another area with untapped potential, she suggested.

"We want to continue using our Olympics sponsorship as an interglobal event," Ms. Soderstrom said, "but there's room to provide more commonality among regions and countries, through better integrated marketing."

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