CASSIES Silver: Interac gets in the black

The payment system played off consumers' anxieties over debt to achieve growth in transactions.

This story appears in the February/March 2016 issue of strategy.

Silver: Services         

Bronze: Best Launch

Situation Analysis:

For 28 years, Interac had been synonymous with debit in Canada, but consumers struggled to explain what Interac was or what it did. By early 2014, Interac’s core business was under competitive threat from credit card campaigns aimed at small purchases, niche players such as Square and PayPal, along with co-branded debit cards and Visa Debit. With a decreasing share of mind, Interac needed to be relaunched to improve brand awareness, relevance and motivation.

Insight & Strategy:

Household debt in Canada is at an all-time high, partly due to the increasing proliferation of credit cards. Unlike credit cards, Interac allows Canadians to pay with their own money so they don’t go into debt with each purchase. Research revealed that people who use Interac feel more in control of their money and as a result, more relaxed, capable and optimistic in the rest of their lives without the feelings of anxiety which often come with heavy credit card usage and debt.


Launched nationally on March 3, 2014, “Be in the Black” positioned Interac as the everyman’s antidote to credit cards and debt, calling for Canadians to choose to use their own money, and to feel amazing for doing it. With a spend of $10 million, the media strategy was focused on reaching consumers in front of retailers and at point of purchase following an initial 60-second television launch commercial.

Building on the consumer tendency to capture and share pictures of their most recent purchases, the campaign was amplified via a Twitter and Instagram social promotion while retailer partnerships targeted a younger demographic.


In the face of continued adverse trends and competitive forays, Interac achieved 5.2% transaction volume growth from March 2014 to June 2015, beating the previous year’s growth of 4.2% and the client’s target of 3%. This represented 235 million more Interac transactions than the same period before launch. From March to May 2015, transactions continued to grow year-over-year at a rate of 5.7. “Be in the Black” also fueled Interac’s product development plans, re-framed employee behaviours and drove the rebranding of a new B2B product.

Cause & Effect:

Advertising awareness for Interac increased by 50% from pre-launch levels and outperformed key credit card rivals, despite being significantly outspent. Brand link measures outperformed norms (0.79 vs. 0.53) and were more than double those of the previous campaign. Tracking scores were also above norm for relevance, motivation to use and uniqueness, growing stronger as the campaign progressed. Spend level of media and production was consistent year-over-year while no discount or cash incentive was offered to consumers for choosing to pay with Interac. Distribution also remained unchanged and there were no new product innovations or enhancements during the campaign period.


Client: Interac Association

VP client management and marketing: Barry Campbell

Director, marketing and brand strategy:  Andrea Danovitch

Senior marketing manager: Jennifer Lee

Marketing specialist: Hizola Toovi

Marketing coordinator: Lauren McKay

Agency: Zulu Alpha Kilo

CCO: Zak Mroueh

ECD: Ron Smrczek

ADs: Allan Mah, Shawn James, Grant Cleland

CWs: Nick Asik, David Horovitch, Sean Atkinson, George Ault

Producers: Jennifer Cursio, Kari Macknight Dearborn, Tara Handley, Kate Spencer

Account team: Rob Feightner, Laura Robinson, Adrian Goodgoll, Kait Babin

Strategic planner: Ebrahim El Kalza

Media agency: Media Experts

Media team: Richard Ivey, Phil Borisenko, Jenna Piirto, Lauren Rosenbloom, Daniel Mak

Production company: Sons and Daughters

Director: Quinn, David Hicks

Production house producers: Joan Bell, Rita Popielak, Sons & Daughters

Sound production house: Vapor Music

Visual effects & online: Topix

Recording studio: Pirate Radio

Audio director: Chris Tait

Production company: Marianne Klein; Brahaus Productions

Locations: Daniel Kaplan; Dank

Photographer: Jamie Morren; Zulu Alpha Kilo

Video post facility/editing company: Saints Editorial

Editor: Brian Williams

Compositor/online: James Andrews/AXYZ

Colourist/transfer: Alter Ego