Cannes Lions

My First Purchase Exhibit


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To fight in the battle for top talent, Mastercard needed to make a lasting impression.

Instead of focusing inward on what we do, we shifted our focus outward, and showed the meaningful impact that our work makes in real people’s lives.

We highlighted one particular case study: our partnership with NGO Mercy Corps to distribute humanitarian aid, via digital aid, to refugees in Lesbos, Greece. The use of electronic payments is safer than cash, more efficient than physical goods, and restores dignity of choice to the user. For a refugee, the act of easily purchasing items they need brings a sense of normalcy and optimism.

To bring this story to life for students, we created a full day activation that we called “My First Purchase” using different mediums – an exhibit, a film, and a live performance– that would help illustrate Mastercard’s impact in a unique, experiential format.


For the “My First Purchase” event, we created an emotional documentary film told from three perspectives: a Mastercard employee responsible for developing prepaid technology, a corner store merchant in Greece, and a refugee using a prepaid card for the first time at that store. The film drew a direct link between Mastercard’s work and the meaningful end result.

The film played on loop during the day and was accompanied by an exhibit of the first items that refugees from Lesbos purchased after receiving their Mastercard. Toys. Soap. Candy. Little things that gave them comfort and confidence.

Next came a musical performance based on one of those purchases—an instrument. St, Louis musicians played via livestream with musicians from the refugee camp in Greece, creating a shared, celebratory experience unlike any other.


“My First Purchase” was the most inventive recruitment effort ever held on Washington University’s campus. Excitement throughout the event was palpable and it made a strong impression on students.

Our meaningful product story told through innovative formats shifted perceptions of Mastercard as an employer:

• “It was such an incredible story, where the power of technology can change the world…especially for those who needed the most support.”

• “They want employees who aren’t just specialists but have a passion for their work and how it applies to the real world.”

• “I now think of Mastercard as a humanitarian as much as a financial company. They saw a way to help underserved people around the world.”

After the event, students sought us out -- 23 proactively followed up with Mastercard, resulting in two full-time hires of highly sought after engineers.

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