CAMPAIGN: Visa launches clothes-swap campaign

Visa wanted to reach women and move into the fashion arena. It asked Mission to create an ethical campaign that would target female consumers without encouraging spending or debt.

Visa: aimed to target female consumers without encouraging spending or debt
Visa: aimed to target female consumers without encouraging spending or debt

Campaign: Visa Swap
Client: Visa
PR Team: Mission
Timescale: March-June 2007
Budget: Undisclosed

To generate positive PR coverage for Visa and to increase visibility for the brand. To encourage consumers to look at Visa in a fresh way.

Strategy and plan
Mission wanted to tap into the growing trend in vintage shopping and the emergence of clothes swapping. It teamed up with textile recycling ­ char-ity TRAID to create ‘Visa Swap’, a pop-up clothes-swap store in central London.

A Visa Swap website was created with details of the campaign. A call to action was issued via a press release to national and consumer press and women’s magazines promoting the message that it is possible to look good without buying new clothes.

A host of celebrities, including ­ Mischa Barton, Peaches Geldof, Kylie Minogue and Sadie Frost were ­approached to donate clothes and maximise news coverage. Barton agreed to front the campaign with a press shoot and exclusive fashion ­interview in The Times magazine.

Women were invited to take their designer and quality high-street clothes and accessories to the Knightsbridge boutique over a three-week ­period, culminating in a ‘Visa Swap Shop’ on 15-17 June.

All the items of clothing were then assessed and valued by the Visa Swap team, with the value given back to the customer in redeemable points, which were then loaded on to a Visa ‘Fashion Swap’ card.

An in-store press event on 14 June was attended by Geldof, Frost, fashion designer Henry Holland, stylist Katie Grand and Jo Wood, wife of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. UK and international media at the event included French Vogue and Le Monde, and Germany’s In Style, Stern and RTL.

During the swap weekend, stylists were on hand with advice on how to customise recycled clothes, and remind women that small purchases of accessories and cosmetics can make a big impact on their wardrobe without having to spend large amounts of money. Any leftover items of clothing were then donated to TRAID.

Measurement and evaluation
The Visa Swap website attracted 619,000 hits. Coverage was achieved across the consumer press with an exc­lusive shoot and cover with The Times’ Saturday magazine, and full pages in The Guardian’s G2, the Daily Mail, ­thelondonpaper, Tatler, Marie Claire, Metro, WWD, The Big Issue, Time Out, Grazia, Easy Living, BBC, InStyle and the Evening Standard.

Visa Swap was named ‘Campaign Of The Week’ by The Guardian’s ­media section. Overall, 100 articles mentioned the event.

Ruby Warrington, features editor at City AM, said: ‘As always, Visa was very proactive. There was no particular ­aspect of the PR campaign that stood out, but it was such an interesting ­concept that it didn’t need to work too hard.’

Around 4,500 items were swapped in-store with a total of 400,000 points awarded. Just over 2,000 items were donated to TRAID, filling 27 large textile banks that will last three to five years. Visa now plans to take the campaign nationwide and global.


Andrew Bloch (l), founder and managing director, Frank PR: Forget eBay, these days the savvy fashionista throws clothes-swapping parties, and Mission hit on a sure-fire media winner with its Visa Swap campaign. The launch of London’s first official clothes exchange enabled Visa to harness a trend and attract high-profile media attention in the process.

The range of celebrities that donated clothes and attended the launch was impressive. It is unclear whether they donated their services for free – either way, it took the results to another level.

The supposedly irony-free move of Visa encouraging debt-free and sustainable shopping was an experiment that could have been lost on some. The Visa Fashion Swap card points system was a bit complicated and the TRAID link felt like a bit of a bolt-on to tick the green box and demonstrate Visa’s ethical heart. This may explain why some journalists omitted this element of the campaign.

The campaign could ­also have benefited from more creative use of online PR, blogging and use of social network sites to drive traffic to the Visa Swap website to encourage more online talkability.

Finally, there is no mention of key message evaluation. It would be interesting to see if perceptions of Visa were enhanced, or whether it was Swap Shop and the celebrities that stole the limelight.

On the whole, this was a fun, ­imaginative campaign that demonstrated that Visa is in tune with shopping trends.


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