Venmo 'killer' Zelle is rolling out new ads aimed at encouraging more people to ditch cash

  • Peer-to-peer mobile payments tool Zelle, launched this summer, is rolling out its biggest marketing push to date.
  • The ad campaign is aimed at raising awareness, not just for Zelle, but the peer-to-peer mobile payments industry at large, according to the company.

You know you have your work cut out for you when your biggest competitor’s brand name becomes synonymous with your entire industry. And that is why, having the backing of some of the largest banks in the U.S. helps.

Just ask peer-to-peer payments tool Zelle — which officially launched this summer as the U.S. banking industry’s answer to popular mobile payments app Venmo — and is embarking on its biggest marketing push yet to the tune of “double-digit multi-million dollars,” said Rose Corvo, chief administrative officer at Early Warning, the bank-owned consortium that runs the Zelle network.

Starting today, consumers will encounter the up-and-coming digital payments brand across the digital ecosystem, including ads on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Hulu and BuzzFeed.

The investment is a bid to increase not just awareness, but also highlight the what Zelle sees as a big strength: unlike Venmo, which takes some time to transfer funds between bank accounts, Zelle’s transfers are instantaneous between its various member banks.

But more importantly, Zelle hopes to draw attention to mobile payments as an industry as a whole. Ony 15% of customers in the U.S. use peer-to-peer payments and only 35% use mobile banking, according to an Aite Group study. Zelle wants this to change, and is targeting more than just millennials, who use Venmo for everything from avocado toast to paying their rent.

“The awareness of peer-to-peer mobile payments at large is either in the high single or lower double digit numbers,” Corvo told Business Insider. “Our biggest aim is to bring about a behavioural change among 18 to 54-year olds in that they start using this alternative to cash and checks.”

To that end, Early Warning has joined hands with ad agency Huge to develop the ads, which aim for punchy rhyming one-liners. For example: “Your friend has a different bank, no sweat! Zelle makes it easier to pay your debt,” and “Pay the intern for lunch, he’ll thank you a bunch!”

“The Zelle product really enables the movement of money, in what we’ve been internally calling rhythm and flow,” said Jeff Brooks, president and chief marketing officer at Huge. “We’re looking at the movement of money not just at a functional and transactional level, but also how when you remove friction in paying people, it removes unnecessary hassles and life moves forward too.”

While the ad push is centered around digital for the rest of 2017, starting January 2018, Zelle ads will also make their way into print, media and out-of-home channels across 14 markets in the U.S. The marketer has also roped in Hamilton actor Daveed Diggs as its brand ambassador — a deliberate attempt to partner with an upcoming artist rather than an established one.

“Just like Zelle, Daweed is also a disruptor in the art of the spoken word,” said Corvo.

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