MasterCard Proves Advertising’s Basics Ain’t Changed (Only The Bullshit Level Has Increased)

MasterCard Proves Advertising’s Basics Ain’t Changed (Only The Bullshit Level Has Increased)

Yesterday, B&T published an article with comments from MasterCard’s global CMO that said “Consumers hate ads and they want experiences!” Here, regular columnist Robert Strohfeldt weighs in and says the MasterCard chap only got half of it right…

Interesting article from MasterCard about people hating ads and wanting “experiences”. (The second part is correct, the first typical of so much bullshit sprouted today).

The writer alluded to the 4Ps, the basics of a marketing plan i.e.

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place (Distribution)
  • Promotion

I often quote Professor Mark Ritson, as in my opinion, he has probably contributed more than any individual to the debate and resulting redress of the industry obsession with online and social media.

As Mark once said “Half the industry is trying to rewrite the basics of marketing and the other half have no idea what they are.”

This has happened with the 4Ps, once a foundation of marketing theory – now have the 7Ps (e.g. added people, though they are an integral component of the first P, the product). The 7Ps do exist, but these are








I have had many debates with colleagues about the effectiveness of advertising (promotion) versus distribution. (Those who believe advertising is all powerful). Without broad and easy access to your product or service, the advertising is wasted. Another basic often forgotten – “make it easy to buy”. In 99.9 per cent of cases, if you make it hard for a consumer to find or buy your product, they won’t go out of their way chasing it. “A product lives or dies on its distribution”, is another adage that still holds true.

In a fragmented media landscape, with ferocious competition, ensuring you Product, Pricing and Distribution is optimised is critical BEFORE the promotional phase is even considered.

So, a big tick to the 4Ps.

The other point made was consumers don’t like ads, they want experiences. In the late 80s, prior to Saatchi splitting into Saatchi & Saatchi and M&C Saatchi, the original Saatchi was arguably (along with Clemenger) the most creative of the big multi-nationals.

Saatchi produced a printed A5 booklet on The Brief – how to write a great creative brief. This is both an art and a discipline that is frequently overlooked in a digitally obsessed world. The irony is the brief is probably even more important today, in a fragmented world, than ever before.

My founding partner, Grahame Bond (aka Aunty Jack) came out of the ABC and we were asked to give a talk to the producers at 2JJJ. As was our way back then, it was in the cab ride to the studio that we said “What the f…k are we going to talk about?”. We had forgotten/ignored the 7 Ps. So, we winged it – used the creative brief and applied it to the development of a radio show. And it worked. The creative brief can be applied to any piece or type of communication.

A key element of the brief is The Proposition – been around since advertising was “invented”. Was once called the USP, Unique Selling Proposition (Though it doesn’t have to be unique. Get in before your competitors and own it. Volvo and Safety is a good example.).

What were taught about the proposition was it was a benefit and attributes are not a benefit – it is what they do to “make” the benefit.  In the case of MasterCard, the benefit is “Priceless”.  A classic example of how to present a key selling proposition. The ability and convenience to buy what you want (to a limit), when you want is not the benefit. It is the experience that can be priceless. A classic piece of advertising strategy that David Ogilvy (Ogilvy & Mather) would have been proud of.

But then they go and claim it is new and people don’t want ads, they want experiences. Great advertising presents benefits, not as attributes, but as experiences.

One example from the Saatchi book was on sound system speakers. Rather than a proposition that says “Better sound quality than any competitor”, a proposition example given was

“Speakers so fine you can even tell the brand of instrument being played” – (Priceless). The take was to express the benefit as opposed to the attributes. The attributes were give as “Support for the Proposition” or “Permission to Believe”. Toyota was another example. The benefit was not twin overhead cams, with 4 valves per cylinder. It was a small fuel efficient engine with the power of a large engine. How is this achieved? With twin overhead cams, etc.  Though the buyer had no idea what a camshaft was, it was enough for them to believe the proposition. Still see it today. Take toothpaste – contains an ingredient whose name you cannot pronounce and people then believe it cleans your teeth whiter.

The ads done by MasterCard are excellent and expressed the benefit of Priceless in a creative and consistent manner. Advertising 101 from the 70s’. Now we have many more conduits to the consumer, an integrated approach is mandatory and allows for target specific executions, though the umbrella message of Priceless remains. (For the cynical, the average interest rates of 17 up to 24% sure are Priceless).

But don’t believe the bullshit about social media. Consumers would much prefer to look at say holiday destination social sites than some crap from a credit card. Excellent advertising in traditional media was the primary driver of the MasterCard Priceless campaign.

The basics don’t change, but the bullshit is laid on a bit thicker.

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