Ready, Set, 'Go' for Visa


Sometimes, life takes a fresh start. This new Visa campaign from TBWA, for instance, introduces the word "go" with a new global tagline, "More people go with Visa," which replaces "Life takes Visa." I can see that going is more forward-moving than taking, which you kind of have to sit back and do. But as a phrase, it doesn't roll off the tongue. It seems like it's been translated from another language, the awkward result of too many focus groups.

In the U.S., there are two TV spots to start. "Let's Go" is a big, glossy anthem, my least favorite kind of commercial. It's a beautifully shot update of "Morning in America" imagery. Now, a young woman uses a cool European coffee maker. A jogger stretches. People scan the sky hopefully as the sun rises. The vignettes, reflecting on the promise of a new day, are attractive -- they could sell me on a nice new breakfast cereal, or a crisp white shirt, or maybe some life insurance.

The anthem ad also features the most up-to-date music in the campaign, the song "Today" by Smashing Pumpkins, from 1993.
For the record, I still don't get why companies need these advertising "manifestos." Consumers do not lean forward on the couch and say, "Wow, Marge, get in here -- Visa is revealing some brand DNA!" They respond to messages that resonate.

"Let's Go" is, however, armed with a secret weapon: Morgan Freeman, who I am naming the official voice of God in this age of mild Depression. His voice is so distinctive, his line readings so nuanced, that the sound just breaks through and stops time -- a little aural stimulus package. James Earl Jones still has plenty of juice, but Freeman's voice conveys the sum of all of his more delightful movie roles, and Darth Vader is not among them.

Indeed, given all the financial gloom and doom, I can appreciate any message that's upbeat and positive without being preachy or pandering. And that's why I like the second spot, "Aquarium." It's so beautiful that it cuts through the pessimism and gives us a minute of visual relaxation. But the tone is more contemporary than "Let's Go."

The deep blue water suggests life, birth, creativity -- that's why, in The Muse, Sharon Stone advises Albert Brooks, a stumped screenwriter, to go to an aquarium for inspiration to fix his stalled screenplay. (She turns out to be a psychopath, but still, there is something hypnotic in the sea depths.)

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