Visa U.S.A. is hoping that young people will take a message about financial responsibility more seriously if they hear it on MTV.
The bank card association has launched a series of educational programs aimed at what has been termed the MTV generation, including a show on the cable music channel.
The campaign reflects a shift in how Visa advises young people to manage their finances. "This audience needs a different type of approach," said Visa vice president David Sandor, who is spearheading the campaign. "We want to have someone they can relate to." He said young people "are often suspicious of this type of information."
The MTV show, "True Life: No Money, Mo' Problems," will first air Tuesday, and will be repeated throughout the year. It features true stories about young people's struggles with money, including those of members of a rock band, a recent college graduate who goes on a TV game show to try to pay off her student loans, and a college student who hosts a radio show about investing.
Visa collaborated with former network newscaster Linda Ellerbee of Lucky Duck Productions, which has produced other shows that deal with young people's problems.
Mr. Sandor said Visa is taking this approach because "as the industry leader we have an obligation to educate as more people replace checks and cash with credit and debit cards."
The campaign also includes a traveling Hollywood-style game show that will visit 20 college campuses this year. The show, "Earning Credit," will award $1,000 tuition scholarships. The questions pertain to managing credit and budgeting. "Earning Credit" was tested on five campuses last year and comes to New York University this week.
Other parts of the campaign focus on financial literature in schools, billing statements, and seminars hosted by personal finance expert Terry Savage in various locales.
Stephen Brobeck, executive director of Consumer Federation of America, sees another side to Visa's educational campaign. The card association is responding to "mounting criticism of marketing to this group," Mr. Brobeck said.
Consumer advocates object to credit card issuers' aggressive marketing tactics to the student population. The critics charge that unemployed college students are being offered multiple cards with credit lines of up to $5,000. Mr. Brobeck said college students frequently get into financial trouble because they get access to too much credit.
"No one is criticizing the industry for making available a card with a $1,000 credit line," he said.
The Washington-based consumer advocate said groups like his are not alone. The parents of students who get into financial difficulty are also complaining about card issuers' marketing tactics, he said.
Mr. Sandor said, "These arguments that we are doing consumer education because of some irresponsibility on the part of our members is not true. More people are using our products than ever before."
Visa points to research showing that more than 50% of college students have jobs. Moreover, most students have good repayment records, Visa said.