Mastercard makes time for fun

The company enlists Cobie Smulders to show Canadians the benefits of Masterpass as part of a refreshed, digital-first marketing approach.
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For the first time in Canada, Mastercard has enlisted a celebrity endorsement, getting actress Cobie Smulders to show Canadians how she spends her extra time in a new online video series promoting its Masterpass digital wallet.

The new series of videos show Smulders – best known for her work on How I Met Your Mother and The Avengers – buying gifts for friends, a new book and plane tickets for a trip home. She then uses the time she saved (because she purchased those things using her Masterpass) to catch up with a friend over a phone call, train for a new acting role and celebrate her Canadian heritage.

McCann Canada led creative on the campaign, with Ketchum handling PR and Carat on media. The agencies collaborated with director Dan Opsal of The Tonight Show and Canadian writer Anne T. Donahue to develop each video.

Shawna Miller, VP of consumer and digital marketing at Mastercard, says the series reinforces the idea of saving time when shopping online, which has been the key message behind its advertising for Masterpass (in Canada, Masterpass can be used for secure payments and fast check out when shopping online and in-app, but is not yet available for contactless payments in-store, as it is in the U.S.). However, the series takes a slightly different communication approach that fits with a new marketing strategy the company has adopted over the past 18 months.

While Mastercard still runs more traditional ads, it has been pursuing longer, storytelling-style content that doesn’t fit within the typical 30-second spot format. That kind of approach has also gotten the company to think digital-first about its campaigns. “Spending Time With Cobie Smulders” will be promoted through earned media on Smulders’ own social channels and appearances on Canadian television shows this week, as well as a paid media buy on social running into the new year.

“It really gives consumers something to sink their teeth into,” Miller says, adding that it has resulted in higher engagement on social and a majority of viewers watching videos to completion. “It’s relatively new for us to go digital-first, but we’re pleased with the results so far.”

Miller says the main business objectives for Masterpass are the same as many other providers of digital wallets -that is, driving awareness and adoption of what is still a relatively new concept for most consumers.

Since launching last year, Mastercard has taken more of a merchant-driven approach, highlighting the retailers that accept Masterpass payments and special offers they provide to drive registration and usage. But given the amount of competing products that consumers now have access to in Canada, Mastercard is also looking to differentiate by engaging and speaking more directly to Canadian consumers.

“Anybody who is talking about a digital wallet or similar product will be in the informing stage with consumers right now, which is why this partnership is so important to us,” Miller says. “[Smulders will] allow us to accelerate the differentiation of Masterpass, but in a way that really connects with Canadians and uses a wink and a smile. We get to take this global product and make it personal for Canadians.”