The quality of insights has been getting better at Visa, now it’s time to tackle attribution, says Freddie Covington, APAC SVP Marketing & Cross Border, who spoke to WARC as part of a series of interviews with CMOs for the Toolkit 2019 report.

What are most proud of in 2018? And what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned this year?

This has been a big year of transformation for the Asia Pacific team at Visa. We hired new people with a greater focus on diversity of backgrounds with the intention to balance gender, recruit from a wider range of cultures, and professional profiles outside of the traditional banking category. We also built an entirely new specialist media in-house team based in each of our local markets – Singapore, Australia, Japan, India and China. This influx of talent has resulted in more provocative ideas, fresh perspectives and brought us skills which I think are best in class in the world.

As a result, we transformed the type of marketing we do. With a more capable team who are thinking in a digitally native way as opposed to digital standalone experts, we pivoted our work from advertising to data-led marketing. Our share of digital investment surpassed the 50% mark within the year, we doubled our programmatic investment spends, and we delivered over 40% efficiency vs non-programmatic buys, driven by quality audience data and eliminating frequency wastage. We put in place some dynamic creative pilots which delivered over twice the increase in audience engagement vs non-dynamic creative. We also were able to drive a significant shift to a video-first approach with 75% of our investments on video in Facebook vs 20% last year.

Toolkit 2019

This interview is part of WARC’s Toolkit 2019 series

Find the full report here

We recently had a start of the year offsite and it was incredible to see both the level of talent we had in the room and the kind of work we pivoted to in just one year. So my biggest lesson – and particularly close to my heart given I am a studying for a PhD in Global Change and Leadership at Pepperdine University – is that leading is not about pulling people behind you; it’s about opening up the sky for others to soar in.

How do you expect your category to develop in 2019? To What degree is it being disrupted?

The payments industry will continue to morph with the disruption of unconventional payments players using digital to put consumers in charge of banking and commerce experiences. The big issues impacting our clients, partners, and customers and Visa will centre on three macro trends:

  1. The age of acceleration: we will continue to see the rise of platforms, marketplaces and super apps and technology enabling innovation like IoT, AI, machine learning, and contextual commerce. The decline of cash will further accelerate with multiple form-factors becoming available such as contactless, QR, and real-time payments.
  2. The trust economy: consumers, governments and businesses will be seeking more security and confidence in commerce with the further expansion of big data, open banking, privacy issues (GDPR), data breaches, cybersecurity, and new technologies such as biometrics payments.
  3. The changing commerce paradigm: regulation is intensifying (merchant choice routing, domestic processing, economic nationalism) but at the same time it’s critical we protect the open commerce ecosystem versus controlled or closed-looped payment systems.

Within these macro trends, we continue to see the rise of consumer empowerment and control and a desire to make payments frictionless and embedded within their lifestyle choices, not a moment of interference, which is why at Visa we’re innovating around voice payment, contactless technology, and mobile payments.

What’s the biggest challenge your brand faces in 2019? How do you go about solving it?

Our biggest challenge is related to digital disruption and shifting consumer trends.

On the one hand, a digital economy means that Visa has to increasingly render and exist in the digital world. As our global CMO has said, “As payments become increasingly embedded in commerce, the notion of ‘Everywhere You Want To Be’ takes on even greater meaning for our brand.”

At the same time, consumers want payments to move to the background and become almost invisible. So we need to think about addressing these trends without making our brand disappear. To address these challenges, Visa introduced multi-sensory branding that will support the Visa brand in an expanded universe of connected, payment-enabled devices. A new sound, animation and haptic (vibration) will help notify consumers that a transaction has been safely completed with Visa in digital and physical retail environments. In Asia, we introduced the sound of Visa during our Olympic Winter Games in Korea in PyeongChang in February 2018.

What tech are you investing in or scaling up?

We’re investing heavily in adtech to build up our own Visa DMP and leverage on the amazing “purchographics” data we gather every time someone makes a transaction with Visa domestically or overseas. This will give us the ability to have insights into consumer needs and hone in the targeting of audiences both in our Visa-led campaigns and co-marketing efforts with merchants and financial institutions. At the same time, we are also investing time and resources to ensure we are compliant with global privacy laws and have firm policies for how we manage, collect and protect our customer data from security breaches and privacy misuse. This is paramount for protecting our brand and the trust of our partners, particularly at a time of so many data breaches and misuse.

What skills will you need to hire into your teams?

We will be looking for “ambidextrous” leaders – people capable of developing great creative ideas with high-touch emotive experiential components and also able to drive data-led marketing informed by math and science.

Do you expect your agency relationships to change in 2019?

We have made a pivot this year from working with Starcom to fully integrating the full suite of agency services with Publicis. Market by market, we’re selecting the best teams and agencies within the Publicis house that best fit our needs for data-led marketing and pushing the envelope with AI, VR, and CX capabilities.

Will you be changing your media mix in any significant way?

We will continue on our journey toward data-driven marketing (DDM) and using dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) to bring the most effective work to our audiences. Test and learn will be an always-on way of working for our campaigns vs. trials. Consequently, more of our media will go toward digital and programmatic on the one hand, and toward experiential on the other as we drive our branding online to offline in the same way people live their lives.

Where are your biggest knowledge gaps in terms of measuring the impact of your marketing investment?

We’ve become a lot better, and we’re quite lucky to have a dedicated team of over a dozen people just on the insights and measurement front within our own marketing team. What I’m particularly excited about is how much we have invested this year to increase the quality of our insights – working with street trends scouts, developing an Asian insights newsletter, and holding “what’s trending” sessions at Visa University. Better insights result in more relevant ideas, which in turn produce better results.

Where we need to continue to progress is on the overall attribution of our marketing efforts against higher-level business goals such as payment volume growth or cross-border revenue. This is hard to quantify and the global environment weighs in heavily as a factor. Having said that, we have just introduced a new way of understanding media delivery and measuring marketing return on investment (MROI) with more real-time digital indicators trying to measure faster vs. traditional research instruments. The more we can close the gap on measurement, the better we will be able to create meaningful ideas that add value and utility for everyone.