Visa’s Fools

smurf_mirror “Follow the flattery.” That is former Village Voice ad critic Leslie Savan’s sage counsel to would-be critics of advertising. As Savan knows, ego-stroking is one of the core tactics of big businesses’ efforts to manipulate our off-the-job behaviors.

Enter, on cue, Visa’s new Facebook “app,” the Visa Memory Mapper. The users of this scheme take vacations and, during or after, upload photos of their trips, add captions explaining the photos, and then select music and formats to turn the photos and captions into a “movie” about the vacation in question. All, purportedly, in the name of recording memories.

One might begin to sense the rat here when one reflects upon the true relationship between cameras, Facebooking, and experiences of uncommon or new locales. Which is likely to yield better memories — immersing oneself in a place with perhaps a few quick photos taken, or having a camera glued to one’s nose for a serious share of time in a spot? What possible place does Facebook have in the process?

The JWT Intelligence (yes, an arm of that JWT) blog clarifies the real logic:

Where travelers of old shared (and bragged about) their activities upon returning home, today’s hyper-connected and mobile-enabled vacationers enjoy the instant gratification of doing so on social networks in real time. These updates amplify the travel experience, providing the opportunity to broadcast how cool (or privileged, worldly, etc.) the traveler is, boosting the person’s social currency. Indeed, one-third of respondents in JWT’s U.K. and U.S. survey agreed that “Sharing my travel activities makes me stand out from everyone else’s activities in my social network.” Visa is smartly tapping into this new social currency by facilitating online boasting for its customers.

And, of course, the raison d’etre of this latest encouragement and exploitation of human vanity in our increasingly atomized (and therefore increasingly vain) society lies 100 percent in the realm of marketing research. Promo Magazine reports:

“What’s interesting about the social space is that you can measure the different elements of performance, not only from an impression, but also from paid media and now earned media, or the sharing of what people are doing with their friends,” Alex Craddock, head of North America Marketing for Visa Inc., said. “When you look at that as a success metric, you get a good sense of how the social space can be for you. There is so much data there, and with the triangulation of these findings you actually can be very well informed about how a campaign is forming in real time.”