Zelle is spending “tens of millions” of dollars on a television ad campaign featuring spoken word artist Daveed Diggs.
Early Warning, the bank-owned consortium behind the peer-to-peer payments platform, aired the first ad Saturday during the National Football League’s divisional round of playoff games and will continue to run them alongside unifying cultural events like the Grammy Awards, the NBA All-Star Game and the Super Bowl pre-game show. They’ll also run during popular shows on Bravo, Comedy Central, The Discovery Channel, ESPN and MTV.
Zelle is trying to build some brand recognition for itself among its target audience, mobile users, in an effort to compete with Venmo. Since it launched last summer it has been touting its higher level of security and its ease of use, as Diggs does in the new TV ad. Zelle is built directly into member banks’ existing mobile apps which should conceivably make it more appealing. However, it’s not clear how many people really use their banking apps actively. While 80 percent of U.S. consumers have downloaded their primary bank’s mobile app, according to an August poll by eMarketer, just 20 percent use it actively. Banks also recognize that people often choose convenience and speed over security.
“In our research we learned that people who are peer-to-peer skeptics are those resistant to using something outside traditional banking,” said Rose Corvo, chief administrative officer for Early Warning. “The fact that they have it in their banking app — that gets through the safety barriers in mind.”
Zelle is trying to blur the lines between banking, technology and payments to focus on the way consumers move through their day, with money as the connector, said a spokeswoman from the creative agency Huge, which has been working with Zelle since 2016. Part of the strategy is getting the message out where people are more likely to consume it — offline. It plans to run the TV ads on cable networks until mid-February but advertising will also appear in print publications, retail centers, stadiums, and transportation hubs in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C. The first group of ads will be featured through the end of March, Corvo said.
“You’re going to see Daveed Diggs using spoken word to bring life to how money is exchanged in our world today,” Corvo said, with actors describing Zelle in rhyming couplets, which is a good technique to build recall. “We chose him because he’s an ambassador of the spoken word art form. The same way Zelle is a disrupting category, we went with an emerging artist rather than an established one.”
Diggs is a Grammy and Tony award winner who has recently appeared in the Broadway show Hamilton, the film Wonder and on ABC’s Blackish. He’s also a producer and worked continuously with Huge and Zelle throughout the development of the ad.
For the first three months of the digital ad campaign, which began in October, traffic to Zelle’s website shot up 660 percent and signups rose to 100,000 per day, Early Warning said. The company began featuring audio and video segments on Hulu, Vevo, Buzzfeed, Vox, YouTube and Pandora and paid placements on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram.
Zelle processed $17.5 billion over 60 million payment transactions in the third quarter of 2017. Venmo’s transaction volume increased 93 percent from the year before to $9.4 billion.
Tanaya Macheel contributed reporting.