MasterCard International's "Priceless" campaign won the top prize for card advertising at the 1999 Effie Awards ceremony last week in New York.

Visa U.S.A. took second place for a platinum card campaign called "Purchase Power ... You Could."

MasterCard's ad agency, McCann-Erickson, created the "Priceless" spots. Visa's were by its agency of record, BBDO New York.

The Effies are given in 42 industry categories, including "financial services/cards."

The Priceless campaign, which is a year and a half old, "has received a lot of creative awards in the United States and worldwide, but the Effie is based upon results," said Lawrence Flanagan, senior vice president of marketing at MasterCard. The award signifies that "consumers are responding wholeheartedly."

According to the awards committee, which consists of 150 advertising and marketing executives, MasterCard "was perceived as an everyday, ordinary credit card-'the other card' you keep in your wallet behind Visa and American Express." The "Priceless" ads, the committee said, helped "define a new aspiration that was in tune with emerging consumer values."

Last year three Effies were given in the cards category, but none to MasterCard. Visa's "Works Like a Check" ads for debit cards won gold, American Express Co. took silver for a public service campaign, and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.'s Discover Card won bronze.

This year MasterCard won "a nice little gold statue," Mr. Flanagan said, but no cash prize. "This is something money can't buy."

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