June 25, 2010

Advertising American Express advertising

I've had an American Express card in my wallet for more than ten years now. I've never exactly been sure why—I'm more of a MasterCard guy, but I always figure it's smart to have a backup card, even with the annual fee. For some time, my system was to use the Amex for automatic monthly payments (gym membership, Netflix, Greenpeace donation), the MasterCard for everything else, but this system broke down, and now it's MasterCard for nearly everything (and I don't even belong to a gym anymore). I just opened my latest Amex statement, and I owe $0.00, just like last month. Whew—no problem paying it off in full.

But I've been thinking about American Express these past few days, since the Big Quiz Thing is doing not one but two summer-intern parties for that august organization next week, with oodles of customized material. I enjoy the process of writing customized company questions, though it can get rather dry (there are only so many wacky factoids to be gleaned from the typical law firm website—the best you can hope for is they handled some kind of insane celebrity lawsuit). But Amex is easier, since it's so well known and there's basically an infinite amount of material about it on the series of tubes. Specifically, I've been harvesting some current and classic American Express commercials, and some of this stuff is indeed wacky.

For example, in the '80s, Amex made a business of scaring people into using their travelers' checks:

Happy ending, right? (Though why do I want to throttle every child who has ever appeared in a TV commercial?). This one is just terrifying:

I have a soft spot for this one, partly because I think the woman is very appealing, but also because the slogan at the very end is hilarious:

When it comes to more modern advertising, I give Amex (or their ad firm) a lot of credit: Some of these commercials are true works of art. I'm continually impressed by the beauty of this:

This British "advert" is also lovely; bold move giving this guy an accent that most people associate with someone smashing a beer against the wall in a pub:

Well, I'm sold. Maybe I'll use that green card a little more (or move up to Gold or—perhaps!—the Black card).

Next time, I promise, I'll absolutely trash a multinational corporation.


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