Western Union a global Villager

Agency/Media Company: MediaVest Worldwide Client: Western Union International Team: Brent McKenzie, vice-president, group media director Timing: January 1999 to December 1999 Best Use of Out-of-Home: Second Runner-up (tie) The Background Western Union International is the largest money transfer...

Agency/Media Company: MediaVest Worldwide

Client: Western Union International

Team: Brent McKenzie, vice-president, group media director

Timing: January 1999 to December 1999

Best Use of Out-of-Home: Second Runner-up (tie)

The Background

Western Union International is the largest money transfer company in the world. It has built its franchise on a reputation for trustworthiness, dependable service and superior knowledge of the details of international transfer.

For Western Union, Canada is a fairly typical market. The competitive set comprises various smaller operations, as well as alternative vehicles such as postal services, shipping companies and banks. Typically, these competitors attempt to gain ground by leveraging price advantages against Western Union’s premium position.

Within Western Union’s vast target are several subgroups, consisting of immigrants to Canada who have left family and friends behind, and wish to (or are obliged to) send money back home. This potentially high-yield group formed the target of the campaign.

The objective was to conduct a campaign against this target that would enable Western Union to (a) enhance its image as ‘the best, most trusted way to send money home,’ and (b) mine key promotional opportunities on each individual’s personal calendar, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s day, birthdays and national holidays. The campaign was driven by the insight that people are naturally more trusting and accepting when familiar things make them feel ‘at home.’

The Plan

Western Union’s plan was wholly three-dimensional. But its unique centrepiece was an out-of-home component called ‘The Western Union Retail Program,’ which employed a new media concept, trademarked Villager(tm). Developed by MediaVest, Villager(tm) combines in situ sales and promotional tools with a uniquely complex delivery methodology.

It was this new media concept that made possible a genuine grassroots program. Its two signal strengths were: (a) It was located where each ethnic minority shopped, and (b) it was administered by local shopkeepers in their own languages and styles.

The program incorporated a ‘Take One’ brochure mechanism, executed in ethnic-specific centres by representatives who were not traditional Western Union agents. Shopkeepers in some 300 locations were contracted to display and manage customized Western Union message showcases.

Key to executing this complex plan was the recruitment of project co-ordinators. These were individuals well-known either to the target group or to the shopkeeper ‘agents.’ They were selected based on their track records in dealing with markets of their own ethnicity. Each was a member of the ethnic group being targeted – they spoke the language and were seen as trusted ‘kin-folk.’

Based on research, six major ethnic centres in Toronto were identified. Within each of these, the responsibilities of the project co-ordinator included: the identification and selection of retail outlets; the distribution and replenishment of the relevant literature; and the continuous and visible display of the showcase hardware. At key times of year, the co-ordinator was also responsible for heavying-up reminders of the target’s reasons for sending money home (Easter, Mother’s Day, Christmas and so on).

A combination of transit shelters and outdoor posters was also used to stake out each ethnic centre with language- and culture-specific messages. Transit shelters formed the perimeter, while 10 by 20 posters provided emphasis on each corner, and the in-store program filled in the middle. The result was virtually 100% coverage of each of these hard-to-reach ethnic groups.

Western Union’s traditional media choices were also executed. These included radio, television and print – and, as in the past, steps were taken to bind the brand image to various interests of the target groups (through sponsorship of soccer broadcasts on TLN, for example, and radio spots promoting the company’s support of Caribana).

The Results

In every way, the program exceeded projections. Transactions were up 18%, revenues were up 10% and audience-reach levels set new highs. Equally important, the program has become an equity. There are now 300 locations in six ethnic centres, plus a network of project co-ordinators – all intact and poised for Western Union’s next effort.

A precedent-setting model for marketing to ethnic communities, the program is now being adopted by Western Union in other markets. It has already been expanded to Vancouver, and will be executed throughout the U.S. in 2000. There are also plans for a test in Paris this year.

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From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group