Cannes Lions

Urban Survivalist

COLENSO BBDO, Auckland / VISA / 2019






Visa wanted customers to load their Visa card on their mobiles and make it their preferred way to pay, making payments easier, convenient and more secure. By getting into the habit of paying with Visa on their mobile, we would future proof Visa as the preferred payment method. The brief was to grow the percentage of contactless payments that are made via mobile payments. And to do so, without undermining physical credit and debit cards in anyway (as these are still are the core of Visa’s business). We needed to surprise and entertain people to show them how easy paying with Visa on your mobile is, as well as demonstrating the many places it is accepted. Branded content starring a credible personality gave us an opportunity to both entertain and genuinely connect with our audience to remove their perceived barriers.


To show how effortless it is to survive everyday life with Visa on your mobile, we created the most successful ‘failed’ reality show: Urban Survivalist, starring comedian Ronny Chieng. The Idea: A reality show with little hope of survival - because paying with Visa on your mobile is just too easy. Urban Survivalist appeared to be a new format that stranded a celebrity in the urban jungle with no warning and no wallet to test their survival skills. Knowing our audience loves to watch a reality show ‘train-wreck’, the idea was to make the product - Visa mobile payments – ruin the show entirely. This was an exciting and new place for Visa to be. It’s not every day that a product is so good that it ruins its launch campaign, but it did, and did it spectacularly.


Ronny Chieng is one of Australia’s most successful comedians now working and living in America. By having him onboard with Urban Survivalist together with comedy show writer Declan Fay, we had a great PR story to share. Ronny Chieng, (The Daily Show, Crazy Rich Asians, International Student ) is a rising personality in the entertainment business and his collaboration on the project attracted a wide and new audience for Visa. Using Ronny and presenting a new show format created instant interest. And by having Ronny use the product in an unexpected way to ruin the show resonated well with our audience. Key Message Ronny’s humorous way of endorsing Visa mobile payments would help break down perceived barriers and encourage product trial, so our audience would discover a product that was so good, they wouldn’t be able to live without it.


We turned a typical survival show format on its head, and instead created a one of a kind pilot. Urban Survivalist is a reality show that follows an unwilling celebrity (Ronny Chieng) who is not at all lost in the urban jungle, as he tries to evade his captors (the hapless reality show crew). Much to the frustration of the Director and narrator of the show, Ronny manages to not only survive, but succeed effortlessly because one of the crew forgets to take his mobile phone that’s loaded with his Visa card. As everything unravels, Ronny proves to be unbeatable while ironically putting the entire future of the show in jeopardy. A must watch. IMDb rating pending. We created the most successful failure in branded entertainment. The pilot episodes aired exclusively on the Internet and Ronny shared it on his own social channels.


Did the reality show go to plan? Well, no. Did we create the most successful failure in branded entertainment? Absolutely. At the time of writing full campaign results aren’t in as Visa are still processing the numbers. It’s early days. However what we do know is already significant: • 1.5m viewers spent 12,244 hours engaged with Visa. • For context, that’s more than the audience of Home and Away’s 30th Anniversary special. (Home and Away is one of Australia’s most iconic TV shows.) • Viewers were 88% more likely to associate Visa with mobile payments. • On top of that industry feedback confirms its success. “There is no word on whether there will be more, but we can only hope so” Ad Age. Finally, is Visa thrilled? Yes.

Similar Campaigns

12 items

1 Cannes Lions Award
All They Want for Chrismas Is You


All They Want for Chrismas Is You

2019, VISA

(opens in a new tab)