04/02/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Visa's New Ad Campaign, AmEx Returns To Roots

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Visa is changing its "Life Takes Visa" advertising slogan. Its new $140 million ad campaign's slogan is "More People Go with Visa."

According to the newspaper, the company believes the new tagline will work better in foreign markets, and is also an attempt by Visa to improve the public's perception of credit cards:

The public perception of credit-card companies has taken a beating in the U.S., where credit-card debt has ballooned, reaching roughly $984.5 billion at the end of last year, according to industry tracker Nilson Report.

That's partly why Visa and TBWA chose to tread lightly as they created the new campaign. Consumers won't be seeing a string of Visa ads that promote making expensive purchases with their credit cards.

In related news, The Wall Street Journal also reports that American Express is going back to its roots as a charge-card company. In recent years, AmEx had expanded into providing credit for small businesses and actively wooed clients with less-than-stellar credit.
It is now going back to servicing wealthy Americans who can afford to pay off their balances in full every month.

"If we had known this was coming, we would have ratcheted back some of our investment and put tighter guardrails on our credit decisions," Alfred Kelly, the company's president, told the newspaper.

AmEx's stumbles have fueled speculation that it could be vulnerable to a takeover, though most potential buyers are too bogged down in their own messes to seek a deal. Instead, executives are likely to spend years wrestling with the painful consequences of their push to get AmEx cardholders to spend more just before the housing bubble burst.

AmEx recently reported that defaults on its securitized loans, or loans that are bundled and sold to investors, rose to about 8.3% in January, up from 7% in December and from a trough of about 2% in January 2006. Overall January defaults are likely to be even worse, because those figures don't include small-business customers and some of AmEx's newest cardholders.