NEW YORK: Visa, the financial services group, is redefining its approach to advertising, adopting an "audience first" model prioritising the role of media agencies.

The organisation's new strategy consists of three elements, the one of which is clearly establishing the path shoppers take to completing transactions. This dictates what the target demographic is.

Such insights are combined with data showing the media and touchpoints that have the greatest impact on these customers. Visa then aims to "add value" for clients every time they use its products.

"After we have the road to transactions and media options figured out, only then do we start creative development," Antonio Lucio, Visa's CMO, told Forbes.

As a result, media agencies, and the information they provide, actually make the primary contribution to shaping the core components of a campaign, rather than entering the process once these are already fixed.

"Our goal is to explore the journey in media, and to determine what type of communications is best for each segment of that journey," said Lucio. "We are placing the consumer at the center of all interactions and trying to evaluate the best media options along the path to transaction."

Visa's own analysis of the experience of American customers visiting Mexico, one of the firm's most profitable markets, demonstrated how the "audience first" model could be implemented.

"First, consumers are searching on sites like Trip Advisor - i.e., where do they want to go, where do they want to stay and reviews. After that they go to Facebook to check with their friends. Then they will shop specific sites for flights and hotel," said Lucio.

"Once they reach Mexico, the first thing they are going to do is go to an ATM and draw cash. And after that they'll go to those specific places that their friends recommended. With that in mind, adjusted our communication."

Visa decided to update its thinking based on the findings of analysis by McKinsey, the consultancy, which surveyed 20,000 people in three continents.

McKinsey's study revealed that the "consumer decision journey" had changed in shape, meaning directing 90% of ad budgets to the awareness and purchase phases of the shopper funnel must no longer be considered adequate.

In evidence of this, it reported that 60% of people buying skincare products conduct online research after making a purchase, a touchpoint that was "unimaginable" when the old rules of marketing were conceived.

Data sourced from Forbes; additional content by Warc staff