The trouble with advertising credit cards today is that they have for the most part become commoditised. All major banks will issue consumers with their own-branded Visa or Master Card – the two major clearing systems that are available. In these circumstances is this the way to advertise Access?

On the plus side, the Access commercials are well made, in the “creature comforts” stop-frame tradition.

The “Sea Legs” treatment works much better as a piece of communication because the storyline featuring the animated characters – Money, Cheque Book and Access – ties in closely to the product benefit (cheque books are no use over-seas), which is always the way to make good, memorable advertisements.

But while it’s an efficient piece of communication – it gets the message across – is it effective? Is it the right message? All credit cards have the benefits outlined in the Access ad; maybe virgin applicants might be interested, but their bank will steer them to whichever generic card system suits it (the bank), not necessarily Access in most cases.

You could also accuse American Express, in the charge card market, of talking about generic benefits, but there the association with famous folk builds up the exclusive “Harrods” position (there will always be a few plonkers prepared to pay more for a style association).

On the other hand, Barclaycard’s reaction to the commoditising of the credit card market has been to build in product advantages – insurance for example – which are exclusive to its users.

And although some of the Rowan Atkinson treatments tend to vamp the details of the message, they generally seek to build awareness of these real points of difference in the brand leader’s favour – a good example of effective marketing providing a brief which facilitates valuable advertising.

Unless Access, the product, develops a real, distinguishing raison d’tre, then no amount of advertising will save it from extinction.

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