Mastercard has followed its takeover of Access by calling a review of
its pounds 6 million UK advertising business.
Publicis and its media dependant, Optimedia, which handle Mastercard and
Access, are expected to have to fend off challenges from up to three
other agencies for the merged account.
Secrecy surrounds the Mastercard initiative and executives of the US-
based company were this week saying little about their intentions.
‘It’s very confidential,’ one said. ‘But it’s true that we are looking
at our options in the light of changes that are taking place within the
Industry sources say that the new board, put in place after the merger,
leaves Mastercard technically without an agency and that Mastercard
chiefs are using the opportunity to look at other shops.
The review coincides with an internal debate about what should happen in
the wake of the absorption of Access into Mastercard and the phasing out
of the Access name.
Access, famous for its long-running ‘flexible friend’ advertising, was
sold this summer to Mastercard by its joint owners, Lloyds, Midland,
NatWest and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The banks have already been reducing the size of the Access logo on
their cards and Mastercard sees a conflict between its own global
ambitions and a separately branded UK product, albeit a well-known one.
Publicis has handled the Access account since January 1994, when it
parted company with GGT to renew its relationship with Rick Bendel, the
Publicis joint chief executive. Bendel’s links with the brand go back to
the early 80s at Geers Gross.
Ten months later, the agency followed up with the capture of the
Mastercard business and a brief to raise its relatively low consumer
awareness levels in the UK.
The appointment led to Mastercard’s first attempt at corporate branding
in the UK, with a series of commercials featuring characters from all
over the world speaking in their native languages, the only
comprehensible word being ‘Mastercard’.
In May a new commercial was introduced in which a couple use their
Mastercards to buy food for unexpected dinner guests.