MastCard International is launching an advertising barrage aimed at getting bankers, business owners, and consumers to identify with the notion of "cash cards."

Starting Wednesday, MasterCard's $10 million campaign will hold up deebit cards as an alternative to cash and checks.

The approach is similar to Visa U.S.A.'s recent positioning of its debit product as a "Check Card" and underscores MasterCard's commitment to the market currently dominated by cash and checks

MasterCard's advertisinng campaign, "Maestro from MasterCard," will promote both the on-line and off-line types of debit card.

The Maestro name has been generally associated with on-line transactions, which are completed instantaneously if a customer has a sufficient, verifiable account balance. It conipetes against Visa's Interlink program.

|Two Compatible Products'

Off-line MasterCard debit transactions are authorized in the same manner as credit card items, arld there is a delay in clearing. The comparable Visa product is Visa Check.

"We view our on-line and off-line offerings as two compatible products within one overall debit program," said Arthur D. Kranzley. president and chief executive officer of Maestro U.S.A.

MasterCard International, which in a recent reorganization created Mr. Kranzley's dedicated debit unit, wants members to issue either the on-line Maestro card or the off-line MasterCard debit product, or offer both services on a single card.

MasterCard claims a combined debit product would be the most widely accepted cash card in the world.

"Describing the product as a cash card is a signal more telegraphic of the functionality of the point of sale debit provision than other alternatives," said James Desrosier, MasterCard's vice president of advertising.

"When vou say cash, consumers know you're talking about cash or checks. This steers them away from credit cards."

Trade Publications Targeted

The vast majority - 85% or more - of consumer spending is done with cash and checks, he added.

MasterCard estimates that on a worldwide basis, consumers will use its cash cards to the tune of $168 billion - a sizable number but still only 3% of total consumer spending - by 2000.

RAM Research of Frederick. Md., estimates worldwide point of sale debit sales volume could eventually reach $1 trillion.

MasterCard says its debit campaign will include the largest trade-advertising launch the credit card industry has seen in some time. The first phase, a series of eight-page and three-page ads, will run over a 15-month period. MasterCard sees 1994 as a "watershed year" for its cash cards.

The trade-oriented and business-oriented ads will run in 11 publications, including American Banker, Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, and Credit Union News.

The first phase targets everyone involved in the debit decision, from line managers to operating executives and board directors. Mr. Desrosier said the ads will be complemented by a package of new marketing programs and consumer material.

The advertising was created by Ammirati & Puris, the New York agency that developed MasterCard's "smart money" consumer campaign.

Mr. Desrosier said the cashcard ads echo the "smart money" theme. "It overtly positions our debit products directly against cash and checks to further expand our members' share of total payments on plastic."

The opening page shows two closed fists and the headline, "There's only one answer to the debit question." On following pages, two open palms hold a Maestro card and a combined Maestro and MasterCard cash card, saving, "and here they are."

The ad continues like many "smart money" ads, with a lengthy explanation of the concept. The focus is building business. "Maestro from MasterCard helps reinforce your strongest tie to your consumers: their deposit account."

It ends with a variation on the credit card tagline: "Maestro from MasterCard. It's more than a cash card. It's smart money."

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