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  • MasterCard Roundtable: The “Priceless” Campaign
  • Craig Bagno (bio), Amy Fuller (bio), Joyce King Thomas (bio), John Kottmann (bio), and Linda M. Scott (bio)
L. SCOTT:

This issue of Advertising & Society Review will focus on materialism. We are taking a different look at what human-object relations are like, to take a more complex, more grounded approach to why people buy the things that they buy and what they accomplish through their goods. It’s a much more humane, softer approach than the more judgmental attitude that tends to characterize the academic literature. We wanted to do MasterCard because we thought the campaign reflected that more humane, softer attitude toward understanding why people consume.

So today I’d like you to talk, in general terms, about your role in the campaign, what you were trying to accomplish, and what influences spurred you, either strategically or creatively, to do this campaign or to do particular executions. What I’d like to do first is to go around and have everyone say who they are, how they got involved in the campaign, and what their role has been. Okay, shall we start with you, Joyce?

J. KING THOMAS:

Joyce King Thomas. Chief creative officer of McCann now. I was a group creative director when we created the campaign, and the writer of the first few ads.

A. FULLER:

Amy Fuller. I’m a group executive for MasterCard. I had nothing to do with the start of the campaign because I’ve only been around MasterCard for about two years. But now I’m responsible for marketing in Canada, the US, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

J. KOTTMANN:

John Kottmann. Co-director of strategic planning in McCann New York. At the time, I suppose I was a VP strategic planner. A lot of people went into that pitch from a strategic perspective and I was lucky enough to be around to contribute to it.

C. BAGNO:

I’m Craig Bagno, SVP and group account director. I’m now responsible for “The Americas,” which is the US, Canada, and Latin America/Caribbean. I’ve been in the business for six years, so I missed the first couple of years. I started as an account supervisor, actually, on US business.

L. SCOTT:

Why don’t we start out by talking about the beginning, since two of you were there and can talk about the origins, strategically and creatively.

J. KOTTMANN:

Visa

American Express.

Then we needed to look at where consumers were at the time. Consumers were beginning to shift in what was most important to them, why they were consuming things. And kind of what materialism was changing to. What we found, with Yankelovich research, Roper research, our own research, and research from many other sources, was that there was a shift away from that conspicuous consumption where those two brands were living. There was a movement toward doing things that satisfied you intrinsically and to experiences such as having control of your life, having a good marriage, having a great job in terms of being satisfied at work. These were becoming ever more important—and even, in a way, becoming more important than the amount of money you made or the signs of clothes, watches, credit cards, all those sorts of things. In some cases, people were saying, “I’ll trade off my salary to have more free time.” I’m not sure that everyone here does that or wants to do that.

We were comparing trends over a ten- or fifteen-year period. Yankelovich actually began adding in attributes in the early 1990s, to try to capture some of these trends, because they weren’t even on the books. That was a sea change in terms of what values...

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