MasterCard International said it has ended its five-year relationship with Ammirati Puris Lintas, the agency that created its popular Smart Money advertising campaign.
The Purchase, N.Y.-based association said it is conducting a search for a new U.S. agency. Ammirati Puris said it declined to participate.
"We have taken steps over the past year to bolster our brand positioning," MasterCard said in a statement Friday. "Now we need to consider a long-term advertising approach that will effectively and consistently convey this vision in a way that is differentiating and relevant to consumers."
MasterCard used the Smart Money campaign, which was launched in 1993 and emphasized the utility of the brand, to unify what had been a hodgepodge of advertising messages.
Recently it embarked on a new campaign, "The Future of Money," showing how payment systems can evolve with smart cards and biometric technologies.
"Our vision of MasterCard is the future of money," said spokeswoman Marianne Fulgenzi. The objective is to "address how best to translate this vision into a tag line."
MasterCard continues to fall in bank card market share. Visa U.S.A. had 65.9% of credit and debit purchases in the third quarter last year, and MasterCard had 34.1%, according to The Nilson Report. At yearend 1995, Visa's share was 64.05% and MasterCard's 35.95%.
"When you're in second place, you try several different strategies to help you pick up steam," said David Robertson, president of The Nilson Report, Oxnard, Calif.
MasterCard spent $71 million for advertising from January through September, according to Advertising Age. Visa spent $161 million.
Stephen D. Drees, a former MasterCard marketing executive and now principal of Strategic Marketing Services, Westborough, Mass., said the Smart Money campaign did a good job of depicting MasterCard as the best way to pay.
"To compete in this marketplace," he said, "it is important to pick a branding strategy that has a long-term potential and to execute that strategy."