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VISA Is Mocking You, George Washington

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This series takes a candid look at the advertising being crammed onto your television screens and into your heads. Is it really good advertising, or just wasting a commercial break? Reader suggestions are always welcome.

VISA has been around for quite some time. They don't have a ton of competition – as we all know, your options are pretty much VISA, MasterCard, and American Express in the world of the credit card. One would think that such a large, and relatively competition-free, company wouldn't need to bombard with advertising, but here they are, keeping themselves in our consciousness with their latest spin.

VISA has had a number of very well done ad campaigns. We all remember "it's everywhere you want to be." Yao Ming was bearable for a while. They even did a good job with their initial iteration of "Life takes VISA," a rather clever double meaning that included some interesting footage (I couldn't find the video, but I personally remember the Asian guy shoving a ginormous burger down his gullet). However, their latest attempt is just a little elitist for my taste.

Surely you've seen the ads. One takes place in a gardening/flower shop, another in a food court, and one at a big city newsstand, but the general idea follows as such: the world is functioning as the well-oiled machine that it is. Everybody and their mother are using their VISAs to just stroll through the line, swipe their card, and be on their merry way. It doesn't actually work that way, but we'll come back to that.

Then all of a sudden, you, Joe Schmoe, whip out your wallet and begin pulling out your dollar bills to pay for those items you're buying. Immediately, everything grinds to a halt. Plates go crashing, plants wither and die, chefs forget to flip their burgers, and chaos ensues – all because you weren't smart enough to have a debit card.

First, I think it's a bit much for VISA to basically provide the concept of "you are a meddling loser who will mess up everyone else's day if you still carry cash instead of a card." I know I personally carry a debit card instead of cash, but it certainly isn't due to any concerns over my social status, or anyone else's well-being.

More importantly, as I said before, the ad is actually wrong. Paying with cash means you hand the cashier your money, she opens the drawer, gives you change and a receipt, and you're gone. Using a card means swiping, then either entering your PIN or signing your name (assuming the card reader is working properly), waiting for it to process, then getting your receipt and being gone.

So VISA is doubly wrong, in that a card isn't any faster than cash, let alone so much faster that it'll speed up everyday life and make a pedestrian cash-user look foolish. They made another slick-looking set of ads, but maybe next time they'll try some less condescending subtexts.

Nice try, VISA, but I don't buy it.

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About Geeves the Butler

  • Aren’t they trying to advertise those speed pass things where you tap the card to it, get a receipt and go? I don’t think they are taking sigs with those…. They also aren’t that widespread yet….

  • nicolas

    in the one out on the city street, they show a few people using the speedpass, but most of the customers (in all the ads collectively) are using the same old side or top swipe card reader. hence the main problem. if these were ads for the speed pass, they would work great, but they really arent (at least not directly.

  • Brad Schader

    What is Error:[480] Banned word? I am complaining about the conformity of the Visa ad and my post is being blocked by that. What word is banned? No cursing in my post.

  • Dave

    Visa’s advertising assumes the merchant is setup to support their small ticket rules which don’t require a signature or PIN for a purchase under $20. The local Wendy’s supports this and it is definitely faster than cash. The cashier swipes the card and in two seconds your receipt prints and you’re on your way. I was skeptical at first but now I’m a convert.

  • Brad, if you email me through the Editor’s group rather than the Writer’s group, I’ll let you know…

  • Brad Schader

    Thanks, but I don’t have the banned comment any more. I didn’t save it. I was making a comment about how the “joy of conformity” message of the ad offends me deeply.

  • Ty

    “Using a card means swiping, then either entering your PIN or signing your name (assuming the card reader is working properly), waiting for it to process, then getting your receipt and being gone.”

    If you use the credit (no PIN) option, and spend less than $25, no signature is required, so it is faster.

    I use credit/debit cards for convenience. VISA just wants to hammer the notion into people’s heads that cards are more convenient than greenbacks.

    The other thing is, there are two camps about the issue of the correlation between which form you use and how much you spend.

    Half the financial experts say use cash because you are more likely to spend more with a card.

    The other half says vice versa: use a card because you are more likely to spend more with cash in your pocket.

    I think it is a matter of personal preference. For me, I spend more with cash in my pocket than any of my cards.

    VISA just wants that preference to be for cards (because they make money off it)