In 1997, ad agency McCann and Erickson was charged with formulating a very special ad campaign for financial heavyweight Mastercard. The result was one of the most iconic campaigns ever created, and one which has now been running for more than 17 years. But what makes this campaign so effective, and what caused it to go viral before the notion of ‘viral’ had even made its way into our thoughts?

The psychology

It seems that the task facing McCann and Erickson was to detract people’s attention from the fact that they are spending money and encourage them to see these expenditures as an indispensable part of creating an unforgettable experience.

For most of us, a money-related stress is normally never too far away, and Mastercard essentially allows the customer to make the most of unexpected occasions (e.g. a friend coming to town last minute) without having to stress about being low on money.

The comedy element

If you can create a belting advert, then that ad can also be turned into a parody, meaning that the company will continue to get publicity.

Exploring the funny side

Today, something going viral is as common as a cold, but Mastercard’s Priceless campaign was one of the first to gain a truly symbolic status among consumers. Key to its success has been the fairy-tale notion that we can have what we want now, and worry about it later.

Well done to all involved!



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