Western Union – yes! commercial

See the Ad from YouTube
Coca-Cola is encouraging consumers to “open ha ppiness.” Pepsi-Cola is replacing the o’s in words like “hope” with its new logo, which resembles a smiling face. Other products with paeans to the power of positive thinking — and consuming — include SoBe Lifewater and Starbucks. Joining their ranks is a venerable brand, Western Union, with a global campaign that carries the theme “Yes!” The only way it could be more optimistic would be to add a few exclamation points, or perhaps the words “we can.” The campaign, which began last week, is being called the Western Union Company’s first unified and comprehensive worldwide marketing effort. As such, it has a budget big enough to be noticed in the 200 countries where Western Union does business: an estimated $250 million. The campaign is composed of television commercials; print and online advertisements; a microsite, or special Web site, powerofyes.com, that is to go live on Feb. 23; outdoor ads; and signs and other materials for the Western Union agents who handle money transfers, bill payments and other services for customers. There will also be a cause-marketing component to the campaign, as Western Union makes donations to literacy and other organizations each time a consumer posts to the microsite about the meaning of the “power of yes.” The TV commercial is being introduced in English and will soon be translated into Arabic, Chinese, French and Spanish. The other types of ads are going to be produced in 40 languages, reflecting the global scope of the initiative. The campaign is being created by the Hong Kong office of Publicis Worldwide, part of the Publicis Groupe, which has been working on campaigns for Western Union in Asian-Pacific markets since 2003. Publicis Hong Kong was named the company’s first global brand agency of record last August. Of course, a month later, the global financial crisis began, calling into question innumerable plans by marketers to introduce campaigns, ads and products as economic conditions changed drastically. Still, Western Union chose to stay the course. Although “we’re seeing the economy slowing across all our markets,” says Gail Galuppo, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Western Union in Englewood, Colo., “we decided to move forward with our campaign.” “We did a great deal of research around the globe,” she adds, “speaking to our customers,” and found “they’re very optimistic, very positive, working hard in pursuit of their dreams.” Their “inspiring stories,” Ms. Galuppo says, led to the idea to call the campaign “Yes!” “In a world today where they hear a lot of ‘No’ or ‘Maybe,’ we wanted to say ‘Yes’ to them,” she adds. Consumers who use Western Union to transfer money are primarily immigrants sending funds from their earnings back home to family members for purposes like education. They range from Mexicans in the United States to Filipinos in Saudi Arabia to North Africans in Europe. The goal of the campaign is to make an “emotional connection” with them, Ms. Galuppo says, as Western Union continues to become more of “a consumer-facing company” after its spin-off in 2006 from the First Data Corporation. In the television commercial, filmed in Cape Town, Los Angeles and Morocco, the letters “y,” “e” and “s,” all colored yellow, float in the air as a feel-good song about “standing on your two feet” plays on the soundtrack. The letters are visible above people — black, white, brown — who are glimpsed at the beach, playing football (soccer) and on city streets. “Every day, millions of people around the world are moving their lives forward,” says a cultured-sounding male voice on the soundtrack, “making things happen, saying ‘Yes’ to a brighter future.” Eventually, the individual letters coalesce around a gigantic yellow “Yes!” floating over what seems to be the heart of a downtown district. The Western union logo appears with another “Yes!” and a list of services and products: “Money transfer, bill payment, money order.”

There will be 50 print ads, using photographs of real people rather than models. The ads carry can-do headlines like “Can I give her a reason to smile?” and “Can I give you all my love?”

The photographs were taken by the photojournalist Steve McCurry, who is known best for a photo called “Afghan Girl” that appeared on the cover of an issue of National Geographic magazine in 1985.

The campaign represents “the first time there has been a concerted effort” by Western Union executives, says Sue McCusker, general manager at the Publicis Hong Kong office, to send a message equal to the “global stature” of the brand.

Western Union has “global visibility,” she adds, but has not been “communicating like a global brand.”

The campaign is centered on “what the brand is doing for people,” Ms. McCusker said, adding: “It’s easy to say, ‘It’s just about money transfers.’ But it covers a broad range of daily needs and aspirations.”

The commercial is “about delivering the spirit of the campaign,” she adds, speaking to a “sense of achievement, of optimism,” that tells consumers, “You can do more with this brand, do the things you need to do, achieve your dreams.”

Last week, Western Union reported results for the fourth quarter and all of 2008 that echoed those of many other consumer marketers: Conditions worsened as the year went on.

For instance, the amounts that customers were sending each time they came in to a Western Union office to transfer money began getting smaller.

For 2009, Western Union forecasts that the global money transfer market will grow more slowly than it did last year and the size of each transaction will decline.

The campaign “may seem incongruous with the times,” Ms. McCusker says, referring to the recession, and “yes, we took another look” at the tone and approach of the ads after the economy started to falter.

“The feeling we were getting back,” she adds, was that the campaign is about “things people still want to hear.”

“Daily life doesn’t stop” in tough times, Ms. McCusker says. “People’s hopes and dreams don’t stop.”

“And the brand is still there for them,” she adds.

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