American Express rolls out new creative featuring small business owners

Who: American Express Canada with Notch Video for Canadian video content, North Strategic for PR, social and influencer, UM for media and BT/A for merchant communications and experiential (global creative is by McGarry Bowen).

What: New advertising for the Amex “Shop Small” marketing platform encouraging Canadians to support small businesses. “Shop Small” is a global program, but this push includes made-in-Canada creative. Aside from the advertising, American Express is offering special incentives to card holders: up to $50 in credits for spending $100 with small businesses.

When & Where: The campaign launched in late June in six markets around the world, with additional creative rolling out now and running through the middle of September. The media buy includes digital, social and influencer outreach, as well as out of home.

Why: Because American Express wants to be more popular with small merchants who have struggled during the pandemic, so it’s promoting them and giving cardholders a bonus for shopping with them.

“It’s a campaign for the moment,” said David Barnes, vice-president of advertising and communications, American Express Canada. “It’s well documented how hard-hit small business have been by the COVID situation we are all in… We wanted to put some effort behind supporting them and trying to drive more business though the small business community to try to aid with the recovery.”

How: The campaign features real small business owners in video, digital display and out of home creative. Some of the digital content is produced in association with the Corus-backed So.Da and Twitter Original partnership. The messaging focuses on how small businesses become deeply embedded in local communities.

Timing: American Express kept pretty quiet in the early weeks of the pandemic, said Barnes. “Most of our attention was really on supporting our customers directly,” he said offering more flexible payment options, for example. “Shop Small” is American Express’s biggest marketing push since the pandemic began, timed to coincide with the reopening of more small businesses.

Quote (from an NBA star): “Part of what I miss most about Toronto are the local places that give the city a great culture and vibe. I’m proud to be partnering with Amex Canada for this campaign and to be using my voice to help encourage fans and all Canadians to get out there and support local businesses.”—Toronto Raptor Fred VanVleet, who is an entrepreneur himself and has been working with American Express Canada since last year.


David Brown