#badcopyblog: Visa’s Smallenfreuden is Bigtimebadden


An executive really wanted this campaign to be clever.  They tried really hard too with a huge major market spend and multi-level penetration.  The problem with this campaign is that the core message is confusing to the viewer and has proven to be in every medium it has graced.

The whole thing is muddy and confused.

From the Out-of-Home billboards to the TV spots and Print ads, the only people talking about this campaign are folks in the ad industry.  Everyone else is scratching their heads for a second and then moving on with their lives.


As of right now their Twitter account has just over 800 followers and a Klout score of 52.  These, admittedly, aren’t great metrics to judge a campaign by but it doles an important piece of information.  Out of the probably millions of impressions at this point only 800 people have decided they want to be more involved.  It is also important to note that most of these followers and a heavy number of interactions are all based around the NHL playoffs, once they’re over, what does the brand have?  A national spend like this should be resounding more on social media – especially when the whole basis of the campaign is a hashtag.

Facebook is no different, while there is no official Smallenfreuden page, Visa’s posts have managed to generate paltry, often negative, responses via this platform.  Jumping over to Youtube and the story is the same. While lead agency BBDO was quick to point out the high number of Youtube hits the teaser video received the follow-up (and slightly creepy) video has received 48,000 hits as of May 22nd.  Once again, comments are confused or negative. The campaign, thus far, has not been mediocre enough to generate more than a fleeting, forgetful impact on most viewers and it’s only 3 1/2 weeks old.

Mastercard’s “Priceless” this campaign is not.  Visa’s been trying to gain traction for years with sub-par marketing campaigns, they’ve hit good strides every once in a while but have never had the traction Mastercard has generated.  The brand may not need the traction as they are the industry’s top dog but Mastercard remains an ever-present threat that, with the right momentum, could potentially oust Visa.

What Should Visa Have Done?

Simplified while sending a modified message.

In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Visa’s marketing chief, Brenda Woods, stated that the brand is “…trying to make people think differently about their card,” This means massaging consumers into thinking Visa instead of other currency mediums where traditionally a credit card wouldn’t be a first choice.  This is a smart move in generating bottom line revenue for the company and isn’t too far out of line with Mastercard’s “Tap and Pay” program.

Portraying this message with the use of an invented word, no matter how ambitious, isn’t a particularly great program.  The brand is aware that they need to shift consumers’ thinking to create more acceptability in their minds that it’s okay to whip out the Visa instead of cash but this is a message that should be presented with extreme clarity.  The meaning behind smallenfreuden is ‘joy of small’, why not stick to just that?  ‘The joy of small, using your Visa for coffee while earning rewards’ is direct and far easier to communicate.

Their second spot since the reveal is called “The Pattersons’ in which a couple at a hockey game starts gossiping about some friends a few rows up.  The word smallenfreuden is thrown around a bunch of times but never seems to really stick.

There are a few things about this commercial that don’t seem quite right.  It’s a little petty but mostly it’s easily forgettable.  There’s no real punchline or moment that defines the 30 seconds, it’s corporate weird in a sense that it could have been a great spot had they pushed the idea a little further into weirdness.  The most memorable commercials either resound with consumers at an emotional level or are so hilarious that they’re passed around and become viral hits.  This piece is too boring to achieve either of these milestones.

The funniest thing about the creative on this campaign is that Visa’s advertising lead on this project, BBDO, recently helped another brand create awareness with similar positioning.  Fedex, in an effort to boost their non-overnight business released an instant hit with their “Gimmicks” commercial.

Fedex couldn’t have asked for more out of this TV spot, it clearly states the message, the visuals are crisp and engaging and the humourous tone is perfect without being distracting.  With this campaign Visa needed to create a phrase or idea that resounded with consumers but fell short.  Visa and their media buying agency were hoping to capitalize on heightened viewership during the NHL playoffs but judging from the chatter, this campaign won’t last the second round without major retooling.

To pick up lost gains it wouldn’t be surprising to see Visa drop the smallenfreuden tag and opt for something easier for consumers to remember and then associate with those small purchases the brand is pursuing.  Visa attempted to swing for the fences with this campaign, it is a bold move but the bland creative and confusing message ensure that consumers will be quick to forget this chapter of Visa’s advertising.

Post Note

Marketing Magazine posted some reader reactions to the campaign on their website.  It’s interesting to note the mediocre to bad response most of their readers are registering.  They also took a more in-depth look at the Twitter stats coming out of this campaign, it doesn’t look good at all.

Straight from the horse’s mouth, even marketers are confused about this campaign and wondering why it exists.


One thought on “#badcopyblog: Visa’s Smallenfreuden is Bigtimebadden

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