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Mobile payment companies try to break through with mass advertising


A screenshot from one of Square's new TV spots

As mobile payments slowly pick up, companies such as Square, Samsung Wallet and Venmo are stepping up their mass advertising efforts to raise consumer awareness and drive adoption of their solutions.

Square recently launched a series of six new television spots that highlight how mobile payments can help all sorts of consumers, including a music teacher, a surf instructor and a stylist. At the same time, Samsung Wallet has been pushing forward with print ads in Proctor & Gamble’s newspaper insert, and Venmo is gaining a lot of buzz with its Lucas campaign.

“Today's mobile payment space features so many players offering slightly different flavors that even the digerati have a hard time deciphering who does what,” said Brett Leary, vice president and group director of mobile at DigitasLBi Boston. “Mass advertising can help accelerate the efforts of those companies looking to break through the din to grab a bigger piece of the payment pie. Consolidation will happen and winners tend to have scale on their side.

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“While greater mainstream adoption of payments may still be a couple of years away, the window for upstart players to stake their claim is starting to close as the major financial institutions and digital giants are beginning to lengthen their measured strides in this fight,” he said.

“Once these large players unleash the full might of their resources, the cost to win will undoubtedly go up. There is just too much money at stake and too little time to sit on the sidelines.”

Mass advertising
Square is highlighting its mobile POS hardware in its new TV ads. Merchants can attach the Square Reader hardware to their phones or tablets to easily accept credit card payments.

The commercials are airing on national cable channels, including Fox Business, CNBC, Discovery Health & Fitness, NBC Sports (Versus), History, Travel, Bravo, CMT and AMC. Each commercial is 15 seconds.

One spot shows a music teacher connecting with prodigies via the Square Reader with the tag line, “Selling made simple.” Another shows a nature guide connecting with city slickers.

The spots are short and sweet and convey a simple message: any merchant can accept credit card payments via mobile devices.

“Those companies that have gone to great lengths to strip away any complexity in demonstrating how their solution works, where it works and how it makes life easier for the user [are doing a good job],” Mr. Leary said. “Square's latest TV campaign is a good example of this in action as it builds upon the momentum their initial and simplest offering has made with small merchants.”

Venmo’s mass advertising has been a bit more controversial, creating a lot of buzz for the company. The campaign displays one of the company’s employees, Lucas, in different settings with copy that reads “Lucas uses Venmo.”

Some images of Lucas are paired with random messages such as, “Lucas has dreams” or “Lucas knows what you did.” The ads do not clearly explain what Venmo is, nor do they provide a clear call-to-action or URL.

However, the ads have definitely stirred up conversation, and nowadays, any consumer is likely to look up a business on their phone anyway, so perhaps a call-to-action is not necessary for this target audience.

Another common method for mass advertising includes partnering with other more established brands.

Samsung went that route in partnering with Proctor & Gamble for a more traditional ad. Proctor & Gamble highlighted Samsung Wallet in its monthly insert that runs within the Sunday editions of major newspapers (see story).

These ads had a clear call-to-action to download Samsung Wallet.

Isis has also been big on partnerships with brands such as Jamba Juice, Toys “R” Us, Coca-Cola and, most recently, American Express to promote its mobile wallet.

American Express Cardmembers who use their card in the Isis Mobile Wallet for a ride in a qualified New York City Yellow Medallion Taxicab can get 50 percent back in statement credits until June 1.

“For us we are working with partners both merchant partners and banks to try to identify use cases that are a great fit for regular use of a mobile wallet,” said Jaymee Johnson, head of marketing at Isis, New York. “We see transit as a real catalyzing use case. It’s one of those few things you pay for once maybe twice a day, five, six, seven days a week.

“It’s one of those high frequency purchases and it’s where speed matters, so mobile makes a lot of sense in that instance,” he said.

According to Isis, the mobile wallet is adding users at more than a 50 percent increase every month, with new users tapping six to seven times a month. Partnering with all of these brands is helping get the mobile wallet in front of more consumers to extend the reach of its advertising efforts.

Isis is also focusing on broadcasting its mobile wallet through the carriers themselves.

“Rather than big broadcast promotions where we speak to the entirety of the market, right now we’re more interested in speaking to those folks that have the right hardware,” Mr. Johnson said. “That happens in the carrier retail store where we know they have the appropriate retail. It happens in direct marketing where we can leverage what device the consumer has to speak to consumers who already have the right hardware.

“We see a lot of product introduction happens in that carrier retail store,” he said.

The right message
While Venmo has gone down an untraditional path, the proven method with mass advertising tends to be simple and clear, 

For mobile payments specifically, these providers need to deliver a clear message that explains to consumers why they need to use the service.

“This will make your life a little easier is the headline, and do so securely is the sub-head,” DigitasLBI's Mr. Leary said. “It doesn't need to be any more complicated than that.”

Catherine Tabor, CEO of Sparkfly, Atlanta, GA, echoes this point.

“Mobile payments are all about ease of use,” she said. “Whether a consumer is sending money to a friend, buying an item via mobile commerce or going to a physical location to cash in a mobile coupon, if they can use the device that they carry with them nearly 24 hours a day, that is going to be appealing.

“Consumers have shown that they are comfortable paying for items with their mobile devices, so mobile payment companies are responding by doubling down their efforts to reach these consumers, and marketing and advertising is certainly an important part of the equation.” 

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York

Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer. Reach her at rebecca@mobilemarketer.com.

Related content: Advertising, mobile, mobile marketing, Sparkfly, Catherine Tabor, DigitasLBi, Brett Leary, Isis, Jaymee Johnson

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