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Do payments exist on the big screen?

This week’s announcement ( ), of Visa’s product placement deal to show contactless payment technology on popular ITV soap operas like Coronation Street, may be far more revolutionary than I had first thought.

Here is a challenge for you; can you find any examples of realistic, electronic consumer payment transactions being shown anywhere before in mainstream movies or in popular TV fiction? Please feel free to comment.

I’ve seen plenty of cinematic shopping, fraud and theft. But I've found little evidence of any actual payments taking place.

And I’ll not accept any transaction banking examples. So please do not respond with plots where a baddie asks for gazillions to be wired immediately (James Bond, Die Hard, Austin Powers et al). We’re looking for consumer payments only please.

I've already checked the famous Rodeo Drive shopping scene in Pretty Woman. But there’s no evidence that Julia Roberts actually pays for anything. At one point Richard Gere leaves the set and hands over his payment card to her, but how is that going to work – does she forge his signature?  

Admittedly there has been some ATM activity in the movies. For example, the young John Connor hacks an ATM to get access to a free cash jackpot in Terminator 2. I’m not sure about you, but within the plausible time-travelling, man versus machine narrative, I found the suggestion that an ATM could be hacked by an Atari games console a little too absurd.

Then one of my colleagues (thanks Gareth Ellis) alerted me to an entire movie based around a cash machine - the 2012 movie “ATM”. You can watch the scary trailer at  Spoiler alert - it involves three young friends visiting a remote ATM being subjected to every imaginable cinematic horror trope. I’ll never visit an ATM lobby ever again. Curiously there are no obvious product placements or payment brand logos visible anywhere.

Perhaps this paucity of payment reality comes down to an idealised film view of what a payment experience should look like.  This is a world where the shopper does not need to worry about the payments process at all. The camera focuses on the exchange of valued goods and services.  Checks for identity and an ability to pay are executed invisibly, the clearing process is immediate, and settlement is off-set. Perhaps that’s what real life payments should look like too?

Real life is not quite there yet. But kudos is due to VISA for nudging us towards that vision with a dose of current payments reality. Coronation Street – the world’s longest running TV soap opera – will expose millions of viewers in English language speaking countries to the practicality of paying with contactless cards. And perhaps we’ll see a massive TV moment over the next year or so – the first instance of an Apple Pay purchase at the Rover’s Return bar?

I hope this payment-realism trend takes off, helping TV audiences of all demographics to drop the cash and embrace Electronic Funds Transfer – something along the lines of “EFT go home”? And I hope more movie makers will exploit payments’ new box-office star.

So with a nod to the surrealist comedian/actor, Eddie Izzard, I have drafted a new Star Wars screenplay for consideration. Below is the scene where Darth Vader, realising that it is Mrs Vader’s birthday, makes an emergency visit to the lingerie shop in the Death Star shopping mall (there must be one in there somewhere, right?).


Shop Assistant: May I help you Mr Vader?

Darth Vader: You may not help me.  Do you know who I am?  For I am Vader. Darth Vader, Lord Vader. I can kill you with a single thought. Hang on – you know who I am?

SA: Yes you're Mr Vader – it’s this new mobile system we’re testing – your name appeared on my screen as soon as you walked in.  I can see you’re a black-level Star club member but you’ve never shopped here before. You’ll need to use the new App then we can learn a bit more about you and help you with your shopping.

DV: I have no need for an App.  I do not need an App to kill you. I can kill you without an App, with the power of the Force, which is strong within me. Even though I could kill you with an App if I so wished.

SA:  I understand Sir. It can be quite traumatic visiting the lingerie department for the first time.  But let me show you how this mobile app works.  It will allow you to browse and make your selections more discreetly.

DV: Oh, I see. I'm sorry. I did not realise. Ha ha. … oh … App for the … yes. I thought you were challenging me for the fight to the death.

SA:  A fight to the death? We are not that kind of lingerie shop.

DV: Yes, but I am Vader. Everyone challenges me to a fight to the death. You know. Lord Vader? Darth Vader, I'm Darth Vader. Sir Lord Vader? Sir Lord Darth Vader? You know. The Death Star - I run the Death Star.

SA: The Death Star? That sounds nice. So is there a particular style you’d like?

DV: Ah yes – I need to choose something nice for my partner, Padmé Amidala.

SA: Ooh – I know her. Mrs Vader goes to my book club. She was telling me only last week that she really likes these – look, here they are in the online catalogue.

DV: Excellent give me two pairs of these. In black.

SA: OK – if you could just wave your card here please.

DV: I shall not wave a card. I do not need a card. You know who I am.

SA:  You’ll still need to wave a card. Or a mobile device if it’s NFC-enabled. Or perhaps you have a special lightsaber?

DV:  Give me my shopping or I will kill you with this App.

SA: There is no need to get your knickers in a twist. We just need you to tap your card and enter your order into the Click and Collect system.  Then you can go to the Gold Collection point with your ticket. Otherwise the back office fulfilment, clearing and settlement process tends to get a bit messed up.

DV: Very well. Even though I am all powerful and could kill all of back office with a single thought, I shall give you my card. Wait. Where is my card? I have no card. By what other means may I pay you? Do you accept cash? 


There is a potential sequel too. This deals with the scenario where, having opted for home delivery from the online App, Darth Vader is disappointed to discover that Padmé no longer thinks the underwear is right for her. She is in early stages of pregnancy (the baby will be named Luke Skywalker) and she'd prefer something a little more comfortable. But Darth Vader encounters difficulties trying to get a refund from the physical store, unleashing the mother of all Chargebacks.





Comments: (7)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 04 February, 2015, 07:371 like 1 like

Very enjoyable post Lu, a month into the New Year it is just what I needed.

So here is one of the great Marketing companies in the world, with consumer payments everyone has had access to for years now, in even the most remote corners of the world: I just stayed in a hotel in a remote village of India, with no bank branch obviously, and there across the road from our hotel was a shiny brand new looking Western Union office. You guessed it - I'm talking about Western Union.

While I can think of many examples where consumers are subtly made familiar with the black and yellow branding, I just spotted an early1941 film was produced in technicolor based on a novel by Zane Grey.

The company predates the film, having been founded an incredible 100 years (almost) prior to it in 1851. By 1980 money transfer revenue exceeded that from telegram services. 

Andrew Churchill
Andrew Churchill - MIDAS Alliance - London 04 February, 2015, 17:021 like 1 like

A very good point Charmaine. But your example of a remote village in India is perhaps the point Visa are trying to get at through their campaign using these two UK soaps (Emmerdale/Coronation Street from Lu's prior blog, spawning this one).

India is a rapidly developing nation, but if Paywave works in 'The third world - Yorkshire' (that's Monty Python's view, not necessarily mine) then it really must be time to say it's universal!

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 04 February, 2015, 17:491 like 1 like

From personal experience, I'm reasonably sure that Julia Roberts didn't have to forge Richard Gere's signature: One of my colleagues in my ex-employer's Miami office owed the rest of us in the office a treat. The day we were to go out of lunch at her cost, she couldn't join us. She just handed over her credit card to one of us. After the meal at a neighboring Burger King / KFC / McDonalds - I don't remember which - we just handed over the cardholder-not-present's card at the checkout. The attendant swiped it, printed out the chargeslip and didn't ask for a signature, thereby forsaking any need for forgery.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 05 February, 2015, 00:00Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Does anyone know some decent restaurants near Miami? I was just thinking - if someone stands you up, and gives you a credit card then I'd like to improve on K-KFC-McD!


Dave Birch
Dave Birch - Tessier Ashpool S.A. - Guildford 08 February, 2015, 21:271 like 1 like

The granddaddy is Danny Kaye in "The Man from Diners Club". Here's something I wrote about it a few years ago

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 09 February, 2015, 17:59Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes Thanks for this Lu I missed the announcement, but it is exactly the type of nudging that is needed to bring broader awareness encourage people to use these technologies. The guff our banks send us with the statements goes straight in the recycling; news reports and documentaries aren't seen by the vast majority of the population. But a screen hero using an NFC phone and saying how easy it was to set up, will be emulated. The more that device is used, the more psople will believe it is part of the life they should be living There is history for this type of approach, but mainly with the Government getting informaiton out on the likes of the Archers.
Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 10 February, 2015, 07:01Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

While we dream on about what can be and should be, here's the reality:

Fate Of Predictive Analytics After Obama Credit Card Decline

Which hero / heroine will want to have the ignominy of rejection of his card payment captured on film? Or risk becoming the laughing stock of his fan club when his NFC transaction fails for a variety of reasons including low battery, poor network strength, and so on?

That said, sci-fi movies are an ideal place for showcasing such payments.

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