by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
April 18, 2009
LORAIN, Ohio -- Recently, as part of its GO global advertising campaign, Visa ran an ad showing a father taking his daughter to a public aquarium. The commercial was very well done and should have great appeal to young families with children, especially those who regularly visit zoos and aquariums. The tag line asks "When was the last time you took your daughter to an aquarium on a Tuesday?"
There are many branding messages implied by Visa being associated with a family visit to a public aquarium. The most prominent message is "Visa enables your visit." Visa wants to be thought of as synonymous with a visit to a public animal attraction.
There is a very good reason for Visa doing this as a component of their global ad campaign. Each year more than 200 million Americans visit animal attractions. Worldwide attendance is close to 800 million.
The image of a parent taking their child to an aquarium is very positive, and there are a lot of good connotations associated with this industry. Today's animal attractions in the United States are associated with conservation, wildlife preservation, environmental education, and the overall "green" image every company desires.
There are many brands that take an active role working with animal attractions to promote conservation and wildlife education (GEICO is a good example).
By running this ad, Visa implies that they are supporters of and contributors to the animal attraction industry, while in fact they only have token involvement.
Over the past two months, I have contacted Visa and their ad agency to inquire whether they planned to compliment this ad by spending any of their campaign budget in the industry of which they are portraying themselves as being a part. I asked specifically about promotions in public aquariums across the country, and making media buys to run the ad on Animal Planet and on National Geographic. I also inquired about print and web advertising as well.
I was told repeatedly that none of the ad dollars were budgeted to be spent in this market and the budget would not be modified. I asked Visa for an official (on the record) explanation of their thought process behind running this ad, and for a photo of their Global Chief Marketing Officer, Antonio Lucio. Visa declined on both accounts.
Companies like Visa who try to portray themselves as green reminds me of the time when boardrooms that were lily white first began to focus on selling their products to minorities. They all tried to portray themselves as being in tune with inner-city minorities.
When publically questioned by Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton about what their company actually did to help minorities, they always pointed to a few token mid-management employees and nice but empty community gestures. It was their public exposure that generated real change in corporate culture.
If Visa wants to sell to this audience and portray being in tune with animal attraction visitors, they need to do more than generate some phony or token images. Doing so is as transparent as was the lily-white boardroom - not very.
I hope that when you visit an animal attraction you consider which credit or debit card you use. While the other card companies are not a part of the animal-attraction marketplace, at least they are not trying to mislead you into thinking that they are.
If, in the future, if you see a credit card company stepping into this market and supporting it, we strongly encourage you to support them.
Rudy Socha is the CEO of the Zoo and Aquarium Visitor Website, based in Lorain, Ohio. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org