Backed by Big Banks, Payment Provider Zelle Breaks First Campaign

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Now that Zelle, big bank's answer to Venmo, is here, it's making its first marketing push this week. Backed by brands including JP Morgan Chase, Citibank and Bank of America, the peer-to-peer payment service launched earlier this year but is now embarking on an awareness campaign to spread the word. The Scottsdale, Arizona-based product, which is operated by Early Warning, worked with Brooklyn-based Huge on the new two-year effort.

Targeting consumers aged 18 to 54, the new campaign, "This Is How Money Moves," includes music, rhyming, spoken word and lots of purple (a color that couldn't be tied back to one specific bank). Quirky ads use rhyming couplets for phrases like, "Your friend has a different bank? No sweat, Zelle makes it easy to safely pay your debt," and "Owe a friend? Quickly send."

"Zelle is bigger than the sum of its parts, so we needed a narrative that sat above everything," says Jeff Brooks, president of Huge.

Zelle stakeholders spent in the double-digit millions to create the campaign, which will be digital-only for the fourth quarter of the year. The push includes online video, streaming audio, display ads and paid social. In January, Zelle will expand the campaign to include national TV, national print, out-of-home ads in 14 markets, and some sponsorships. Much of next year's marketing, particularly the portion around spoken word, will include celebrity Daveed Diggs, the actor and singer of "Hamilton" fame.

In particular, Zelle—named for the speedy gazelle—is targeting older consumers, between 35 and 54 years old, who might have been wary of using a digital payment provider like Paypal or Venmo but could be swayed by a bank name they trust.

"Our value proposition is that it's fast, easy and safe," says Rose Corvo, chief administration officer and in charge of marketing, PR and communications at Early Warning, which provides payment solutions for financial institutions.

Though Zelle is still quite new—banks began introducing the service to customers in June and a separate mobile app debuted in September—some brands sau they're already seeing traction. On its recent third-quarter earnings call, Bank of America executives spoke positively about the service.

"Our customers are using Zelle and we look forward to further growth in that area," said Brian Moynihan, Bank of America CEO, on a conference call with analysts.

In the third-quarter the Zelle network cleared 60 million transactions totaling $17.5 billion in payments, according to an Early Warning spokesman.

And while Venmo and Paypal have the advantage of being first to market, the Zelle network has the potential to reach 100 million digital banking customers through its bank and credit union partners, according to Corvo. Experts say there's plenty of room in the peer-to-peer payment sector for more players.

"It is a bit of a wait-and-see game to see what service will dominate in the long run," says Talie Baker, an analyst at Boston-based market research firm Aite Group. She adds that "the interoperability Zelle provides between various banks will be appealing to consumers, as well as having funds available in real time," though she cautions that Early Warning still has some work to do to make it more ubiquitous among all banks.

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