One of the more difficult challenges of the U.S. EMV conversion is getting the word out, especially given the urgency of the October deadline the card networks set for a fraud liability shift.

Some companies are starting to treat this marketing challenge as an opportunity, making their advertising more about the shift to EMV security than about their own products.  ShopKeep, a mobile point of sale provider, is running an advertising campaign that cuts straight to the chase.

One ad states bluntly: "The card companies will hold you liable for fraud if you don't have EMV technology — liable for their cards. That's going to make you mad."

Partners and Napier New York produced the ShopKeep ad campaign, which features two television spots and other digital content. One of the TV spots is a branding message around ShopKeep tied to the need to migrate to EMV, the other general messaging around EMV, liability and ShopKeep's role. The company is also giving away a free EMV reader to merchants who sign up for ShopKeep POS.

"The liability shift is coming, and among our target market of small to medium sized businesses there's not a lot of awareness," said Brian Zang, senior vice president of sales and marketing at ShopKeep. "They mostly have their heads down running their businesses."

ShopKeep is moving the free EMV readers at a pace of about a thousand per month, Zang said, adding the free reader campaign would last about six weeks, though the ad campaign has no set end date.

While the strategy is aimed at small businesses, the ads are also designed for consumers, emphasizing that they've used this technology before in Europe. This message should motivate small businesses to migrate, Zang said.

"It starts with consumers. Consumers don't necessarily know what EMV is," Zang said. "If you've traveled that means 'OK, my card has a chip on it now.' But I don't think that people understand what it means for the larger payment industry."

ShopKeep distributes its tablet point of sale technology directly and through partnerships.

Like most payment technology companies, ShopKeep POS is developing technology for the U.S. EMV shift but faces headwinds from a staggering lack of awareness of the chip-card migration.

Even though the liability shift is just a few months away, many merchants are not even aware of EMV as a concept. And even merchants that have migrated often are not using the hardware properly.

Visa has embarked on an awareness tour to boost knowledge of EMV among merchants, and other organizations such as COOP Financial have their own educational programs. The introduction of new mobile payment technology is also a factor, since it puts merchants in the mindset that their legacy terminals may be due for an upgrade.

"With the release of Apple Pay, merchants now need to start thinking beyond the mag stripe reader, but about chips, a watch, a phone, etc.," said Jeff Broudy, a vice president at Total Merchant Services. "You've got to be able to accept all of these payment types now."

Total Merchant Services has also launched a marketing campaign around EMV, including webinars, information on its landing page and free EMV readers. The threat of being on the hook for fraud after the card networks start shifting liability in October is also an effective message.

"The liability shift is real and it's happening," Broudy said. "We're making small businesses aware of what their exposure is if they are still on their old equipment."

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