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October will be make or break time on the MasterCard International creative business for Ammirati & Puris/Lintas, with new media buying agency GSD&M waiting in the wings.

An Ammirati & Puris insider said the agency is at work on a new strategic effort that will break then and that based on MasterCard's reaction, his agency will keep creative or lose it to GSD&M.

Privately, Ammirati & Puris acknowledge MasterCard is not enthusiastic about the current "Smart Money" campaign.

Eyebrows were raised by the inclusion of GSD&M, Austin, Texas, an agency known for its creative prowess, in the $80 million media review that was decided last week. But GSD&M President Roy Spence insisted creative ideas were not part of the discussions that led to the hiring of his agency to replace DeWitt Media, New York.

"We've got a targeted approach to buying media," Mr. Spence said. "Do you think Wal-Mart overpays for anything?" he added, pointing to the $240 million agency's success in buying media and handling creative for Wal-Mart.

Exec VP-Director of Media Judy Trabulsi said the agency uses media research data and the client's proprietary research to analyze the most targeted media vehicle for the client."It's not about buying spots," said Ms. Trabulsi, "It's a very hands-on marketing media approach. That's what clinched [MasterCard] for us."

Mr. Spence's doggedness didn't hurt either. GSD&M met with MasterCard President-CEO H. Eugene Lockhart six months ago to discuss how MasterCard could more effectively place its media.

"We've had our eye on MasterCard for a long time. We sniffed this out and went to see Eugene and some other people there," said Mr. Spence.

GSD&M will be meeting this week with MasterCard to discuss how to coordinate the marketing teams of the two agencies, said Ms. Trabulsi.

MasterCard VP-Advertising Joan Bogin said: "The core target audience is adults 25-54 with a household income above $50,000," adding that "In the past we were just a national advertiser, now we are also using spot and print because we want to go deeper into our target audience."

MasterCard will increase its budget 20% from last year to cover the targeted media, spot TV, local radio and event sponsorships.

Visa has a total card circulation of 213.4 million up 21.4% from last year; MasterCard has 154.7 million with a 21% increase.

Contributing to this story: Joe Mandese, Pat Sloan and Keith J. Kelly.

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