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MasterCard Inc.'s efforts to make consumers more aware of prepaid products will be concentrated, at least for the moment, on the Hispanic market.

The Purchase, N.Y., company is expected to unveil a new Spanish-language marketing and consumer-education campaign today aimed at attracting more business from Hispanic consumers.

The campaign will include a television commercial intended to persuade consumers to switch from cash to prepaid reloadable debit cards.

MasterCard hopes to make about 44 million Hispanic consumers aware of its products and "introduce them to the benefits of plastic versus cash," said Chris Jogis, the company's senior vice president of U.S. consumer marketing.

Hispanic consumers are a large part of the "underbanked" population, which lacks relationships with traditional financial institutions or prefers using alternative providers like check cashers or remittance companies.

MasterCard has made various efforts to market to this group of consumers since 2000, according to Jogis, but the TV component of the new campaign includes a specific reference to prepaid cards. That reference is meant to highlight "how the prepaid product is a perfect vehicle for Hispanics to use instead of cash."

The commercial, part of MasterCard's "Priceless" ad campaign, will run for the rest of this year in 11 U.S. markets where there is a high concentration of Hispanic consumers: Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Francisco and Harlingen, Texas.

Jogis would not discuss the budget for the campaign, which also includes national Spanish-language radio and online advertisments.

MasterCard is also working with Univision Communications Inc. and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation to host a variety of financial education events for consumers.

The TV commercial, which will air on Univision, is currently the only part of MasterCard's efforts to boost prepaid card awareness that executives are willing to discuss.

Prepaid executives and industry analysts have called a lack of such awareness one of the main problems facing the prepaid market, and MasterCard said last month that it would help to address that problem with an advertising campaign that would include TV spots.

"In the theme of helping consumers think about what will a general-purpose reloadable card do, … in the spring campaign, we're talking about 'Everyday Prepaid,' " Laura Kelly, MasterCard's senior vice president of global prepaid solutions, said in an interview last month.

On Friday, Jogis and Neil Dugan, a senior business leader for MasterCard's global prepaid product in the Americas, said that the effort to court the Hispanic market would be a test case for other projects designed to make consumers more aware of the value of its "Everyday Prepaid" products.

"We know that this is a very interesting area and an apt way to describe how to use prepaid, so we want to test it out," Jogis said.

Dugan agreed with that assessment. "We'll continue to refine that and carry it out not just through Latinos, but also through the general population."

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