Visa USA Moves to TBWA\C\D

NEW YORK Visa USA is moving creative chores on its estimated $335 million advertising account from BBDO to Omnicom Group sibling agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, the client confirmed.

BBDO in New York has handled the business since 1985 and participated in a review of Omnicom agencies for the account. Besides TBWA\C\D in Playa del Rey, Calif., the client contacted DDB and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, per sources. DDB opted not to participate, according to sources.

Goodby split with Discover Financial last week owing to its pursuit of Visa USA, sources said [Adweek Online, Nov. 10]. That $80 million piece of business is now in review.

BBDO issued this statement confirming it has lost the Visa business: “We’re disappointed. But it’s still been a record-setting year. And however disappointing it may be, this won’t set us back from the path we’re on…to be the best agency in the country.”

Omnicom’s OMD in New York handles media duties on Visa, which were not part of the review.

“It’s a brilliant win, as we’re up against tough competition, and it brought out the best in our agency,” said Rob Schwartz, executive creative director at TBWA\C\D, who led the pitch with agency president Carisa Bianchi. “All our creative, production, media focused on bringing the Visa brand to life. We saw a good brand that has a chance to become a great brand.”

“There has always been tremendous energy behind the brand and it has been wildly successful in terms of market share,” Schwartz said. “We want to make it wildly successful in terms of ‘heart share.’ In other words, we want to make it a brand that people use, but which also lives in their hearts.”

A representative for Visa said Susanne Lyons, the Visa chief marketing officer who joined the company 18 months ago, “evaluated all aspects of Visa marketing” prior to the review. “Her first step was to reorganize the marketing group, and better integrate all the programs. We’ve taken an approach to advertising that sees Visa as a leader in electronic payments, not just in credit.”

The rep added that Visa only looked within Omnicom because “we already work with OMD, Fleishman-Hillard, GMR, and we are very comfortable with them. And we recognize that we can find the best and brightest in the industry within the group. Indeed, all of the agencies we talked to, including BBDO, had a strong approach. But TBWA\C\D gave us the strongest options.”

Schwartz said the agency pitched a “bold, disruptive idea” that could “guide future feature development” into the future. He did not elaborate.

Schwartz said, “Like any category, there will be the feature-palooza, whether it is covering auto-rental insurance or getting extra airline miles,” Schwartz continued. “But the ground we’re looking at is above the space of mere features. ID theft protection is great, terrific. But how do you make an emotional connection beyond the features?”

Schwartz hinted at the creative direction when he compared the Visa brand name to Marlboro. “They had to get out of the smoking-pleasure theme, and get into adventure, make it a lifestyle brand,” he said.

Regarding the current tagline, the Visa rep said, “It’s not a revolutionary change but an evolutionary change. BBDO did great work for us for over 20 years. We just need to make it more relevant to moving beyond ‘It’s everywhere you want to be,’ a message based on acceptance, to the other attributes, particularly security and convenience. You’ve started seeing that already, with the Trump spot about cardholder benefits and protection, and the superheroes spot in the Super Bowl.”

—with Gregory Solman

This story updates an item posted earlier today with Visa’s confirmation and agency comments.