CANNES: Mastercard, the payments company, is leveraging experiential marketing to engage consumers around their passion points, a shift that partly reflects an internal view that classical advertising is “dead”.

Raja Rajamannar, the chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard, discussed this subject at the 2018 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

“We keep internally calling it: Storytelling, which is classical advertising, is dead,” he said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Mastercard’s Rajamannar to Cannes: classical advertising is “dead”.)

The marketing leader at the Purchase, New York-based payments company cited a major proof point in supporting this claim. “Consumers hate interruption,” he asserted.

“And advertisements are clearly an interruption to a good experience. So, not only are they putting [up] ad blockers … they are also paying money to keep these pesky marketers out, whether it is on Netflix, or Hulu, or YouTube Red, whichever.”

What is Rajamannar’s underlying conclusion, based on this evidence? “In that kind of situation, somewhere, as marketers, we have to [see] advertising is not the way going forwards.”

Against this backdrop, Mastercard’s evolving model could be a source of considerable excitement to sports leagues, event organizers, and rights holders across a diverse range of sponsorship categories.

“We have pivoted significantly to experiential marketing,” Rajamannar explained – alongside admitting that success in this endeavor is “easier said than done.”

To guide its strategy in the right direction, however, Mastercard is relying on a clear guiding philosophy. “You enable, and you inspire, your consumers to create,” Rajamannar said.

“It’s all about ‘storymaking’,” he continued. “Give an experience to a consumer at scale, and economically, and widely so that they then will form a story in their head, and they will share the story.

To select the right properties to sponsor (and, in turn, the stories to make), Mastercard identified nine different consumer “passion points” – a list including music, art, shopping, travel, and sports.

“In each one of these areas, we are curating and creating experiences that they can get through Mastercard,” Rajamannar explained during a session held by The Economist magazine.

Sourced from WARC