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Why Visa Debit Reminded Canadians That Online Holiday Shopping Is Easy



Publicis Toronto’s Tina Vahn and Tricia Piasecki discuss the campaign which saw Fashion Santa and various drag artists remind Canadians that they can pay for online purchases with their debit cards, writes LBB’s Josh Neufeldt

Why Visa Debit Reminded Canadians That Online Holiday Shopping Is Easy

For many, holiday shopping is a stressful affair. Stock is limited, shipping gets delayed, stores get crowded, and of course, it means much money is shelled out to fund the seasonal pastime of giving gifts. For many Canadians, this latter point is often exacerbated by the knowledge that, should they use their credit card to pay, the start of the new year will be accompanied by the arrival of painfully large credit card bills. But if you intend to do any shopping online, what other option is there?

Enter Publicis Toronto. Equipped with the knowledge that many Canadians prefer to pay for purchases with money they already have in the bank account, their holiday campaign in collaboration with Visa Canada proved the perfect opportunity to inform people of the little known fact: Visa Debit works when shopping online. 

Consisting of two 30-second spots, the creative work showcases conversations between shoppers and fashion icons who come to life on their computer screens. In the first, ‘Fashion Santa’, a young woman in her pyjamas encounters the aforementioned Fashion Santa when at the checkout of an online purchase for her partner. And, in the always-on version of the campaign, ‘Fabulous Model’, a similar scenario occurs, in which an online shopper has a quick chat about Visa Debit’s capabilities with Toronto-based drag queen Ivory Towers, or in the French version, Montreal-based drag artist Barbada

LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with Publicis Toronto creative directors Tina Vahn and Tricia Piasecki to learn more about how this fun and fashionable campaign came to life. 

LBB> What was the brief, and what immediate ideas came to mind?

Tina & Tricia> Our brief was simple: tell Canadians that they can use Visa Debit to shop online, and that if they do, the money will come right out of their bank account. Most people already have a Visa Debit bank card - they just don’t realise they can use it to shop online.

To accomplish this, lots of ideas came to mind, but this one really rose to the top for us. While we knew that bringing e-commerce sites to life would be entertaining, and that educating shoppers at the moment of purchase would be insightful, the fact that we were able to cast the Fashion Santa and real drag artists made it even more exciting!

LBB> Where did you start when taking on this process? Did you immediately know you wanted to feature Fashion Santa, Ivory Towers and Barbada, or were there other ideas in consideration? 

Tina & Tricia> We knew we needed someone who hadn’t been seen in a Visa ad before. Once we decided we were featuring a cosmetic website in ‘Fabulous Model’, we wanted to cast a real drag artist because their make-up skills are next level. 

Ivory Towers and Barbada won out in the audition process; their playful personalities stood out. For the holiday spot, the real Fashion Santa was our one and only choice. We were grateful he loved the concept and agreed to take on the project.

LBB> How did you get Fashion Santa, Ivory Towers and Barbada on board? And what was the experience of working with them like?

Tina & Tricia> We cast Ivory Towers and Barbada through a casting director, and worked directly with Fashion Santa for his booking.

It was an incredible experience to work with each of them. Because they were performing as their own alter egos, you just try to not get in the way of their art. We cast them for a reason, so we wanted to let them shine in their own way.

LBB> The spots are super fun! To bring them to life, who did you work with, and what was the post process like?

Tina & Tricia> It was important to all of us that the shopping women and the website characters be able to play off one another, so instead of shooting one character’s lines and then moving the camera to shoot the other, we had two set-ups in adjoining rooms and two cameras rolling so the characters were truly speaking to one another through the laptop. It was complicated to set up, but made the connection between the characters stronger.

The directing team was Peter Martin with Ad hoc Content, and the spots were all edited by Melanie Hider at Saints. The Vanity did all the special effects work, which was very detailed and time consuming, and Grayson Matthews created both original music tracks.

LBB> The actors who interact with the fashion icons are also amazing! Who did you cast, and what was that process like?

Tina & Tricia> We worked with Brian Levy for all the casting. When we cast the spots we were still in pseudo lockdown, so everything was done via Zoom. Because the chemistry between the characters was so important, we had a second callback (again over Zoom), where we paired the actors so we could find the perfect combo. We were very happy with our shopping women actors, and of course, the unassuming boyfriend in the holiday spot.    

  • ‘Fashion Santa’: ‘Shopping Woman’ and ‘Boyfriend’ were played by Sarah Desouza-Coelho and Andrew Ziegler.
  • ‘Fabulous Model’: ‘Shopping Woman’ was played by Sinthea Chowdhury

LBB> What challenges have you faced during this project? How did you overcome them?

Tina & Tricia> The biggest challenge was definitely filming two unique sets simultaneously (in order to create that natural interaction between the two characters). Because of this, everyone behind the scenes had to divide their attention between the two sets. It was a bit of an undertaking, but well-worth it.

LBB> How have people reacted to Visa’s new campaign? 

Tina & Tricia> The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Hopefully this holiday season, people will use their Visa Debit bank card for shopping online, but we’ll just have to wait to see.  

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Publicis Canada, Mon, 19 Dec 2022 16:38:21 GMT