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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Google launches a campaign about news connections

The search engine is using archival footage to convey what Canadians are interested in.

Google Canada and agency Church + State have produced a new spot informed by research from the search giant that suggests it is a primary connector for Canadians to the news that matters to them – a direct shot across the bow of the legislators presently considering Bill C-18.

In a spot titled “Connecting you to all that’s news,” the search giant harnesses archival footage reflective of many of the issues Canadians care about deeply, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, truth and reconciliation and the war in Ukraine, to demonstrate the point that many Canadians turn to Google as a gateway to the information and news they’re seeking.

“From St. John’s to Victoria and everywhere in between, when Canadians want to understand or get updated on the most pressing topics, Google connects them to the news sources that provide it,” says Laura Pearce, head of marketing for Google Canada. “All of us at Google are proud to be that consistent and reliable connection for Canadians to the news they’re searching for.”

In some ways, the goal of the campaign was to tap into the varied emotional responses that single news stories can have with different audiences across the country.

“News may be factual, but how people respond to it can be very emotional,” explains Ron Tite, founder and CCO at Church + State. “Importantly, those emotions aren’t universal. One news story can create completely different reactions from different people in different places. Because of that, we simply wanted to let connecting to news be the focus of this campaign. We worked diligently to license a wide variety of actual news footage that we felt would resonate with Canadians.”

The campaign can be seen as a statement by the search provider on Bill C-18 – the Online News Act – that is currently being deliberated by a parliamentary committee. That legislation seeks to force online platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to pay news publishers for their content, echoing a similar law passed in Australia in 2021. The Act has drawn sharp rebukes from both companies, with Facebook threatening to ban news sharing on its platform.

Google Canada is not commenting on whether this new campaign is a response to C-18, but it has been public in its criticism of the legislation. In testimony delivered to parliament and shared on its blog, Colin McKay, the company’s head of public policy and government relations, said, “This is a history-making opportunity for Canada to craft world-class legislation that is clear and principled on who it benefits.” However, he noted that C-18 is “not that legislation.”

The campaign launched on Oct. 24 and is running through December across cinema, OLV, OOH, podcast, digital and social. Airfoil handled the broadcast production.