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01 February 2005

This is not My Card.

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In November last year American Express launched its new global card brand campaign, introducing the tagline "My life. My card." featuring extraordinary individuals such as actor Robert DeNiro, professional golfer Tiger Woods, comedian and television show host Ellen DeGeneres and professional surfer Laird Hamilton.

According to the American Express press release, “while the creative direction varies from ad to ad, a common theme knits them together: achievers of all types choose American Express.”

The US campaign uses director Martin Scorsese and photographer Annie Leibovitz to lend their vision to the campaign.

“The concept of each is original to the person it represents, and was refined in collaboration with the featured individual. The campaign unfolds in an intimate narrative format, with each storyline reflecting the places, causes, achievements and avocations that are meaningful to each person. Design touches like handwriting, signatures and snapshots lend a personal feeling to the campaign, in addition to each individual’s customization of the “My life. My card.” tagline for the closing frame of their ad, “ says the release.

“The ‘My life. My card.’ campaign portrays an emotional and practical connection that is based on a commitment American Express makes to every Cardmember,” said American Express Chief Marketing Officer John Hayes. “By revealing snapshots of the lives of these incredible individuals, we demonstrate our belief that our Cardmembers are exceptional people no matter where they live or what they do.”

In Australia a similar campaign has been running as part of the company’s sponsorship of the 2005 Australian Open Tennis Championships featuring the Williams sisters and others.

However, there are some clear differences in the way the Australian campaign has been implemented.

While the theme of extraordinary individuals has been retained, the central brand message has been corrupted. No longer is this campaign about equating American Express card holders with people like DeNiro and DeGeneres, it’s only about equating their physical assets and character traits with the card...not the person as a whole. In the Australian campaign words like "My vocals" or "My strings" are used. These are not, as American Express says,"revealing snapshots of the lives". And at the same time there is a certain humour, borrowed from the DeGeneres’ advertisement that seems trite and superficial.

While the campaign is stylisticly closer to the DeGeneres ads (the use of the handwriting), it still lacks the lucidity of the American campaign and the necessary connection to the core brand message that has been developed and so well communicated in the US TVCs.

What the domestic campaign points out is that global branding needs to be consistent. Very few Australians would be unaware of the actor DeNiro and the talk show host DeGeneres, yet the work that has been done to develop this campaign has been ground down and dissipated by a less than effective use of an international brand strategy.

Photo Copyright American Express November 2004

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