American Express Faces

American Express is highlighting the benefits of the their Charge Card with “Don’t Take Chances. Take Charge”, an integrated advertising campaign using images of everyday objects with happy or sad faces. The campaign is designed to illustrate how the Amex charge card can help customers protect themselves and their purchases.

American Express Faces commercial

American Express Take Charge site

Launched in September 2009, the Don’t Take Chances, Take Charge campaign was expressed in print advertising in national newspapers, a television commercial and an interactive social media component online at Sad and happy faces appear on every day objects, including a wallet, a washing machine, a jacket and a handbag.


The American Express Faces campaign was developed at Ogilvy & Mather, New York, by copywriter John Wagner, art director Dustin Duke, creative director Chris Mitton, producer Melissa Mapes, and music producer Peter Gannon.

Filming was shot by director Kevin Thomas at Thomas Thomas Films.

Editor was Adam Jenkins at Union Editorial.

Music is “Prelude” from the J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite No 1 in G major BWV1007, performed by Robert P Burkhart, recorded by Michael Golub at the Manhattan Center. Music adaptation and sound design were produced at Human Worldwide.

The Faces campaign may have been inspired by Faces in Places, the photography blog featuring faces found in everyday places.

  • DeuxDoppel

    It would be good to see the print part of the campaign.

    • I’ve added the online component. Now looking for the print side.

  • Anthony Barnes

    Kinda bland idea, which could be used for anything. Insurance, health cover etc.

  • bethdaniher

    Thank you for posting this ad…. Simple, creative, and effective. The frowns and smiles are adorable and so full of personality that it made me smile too!

    I think that what makes this ad effective is how the faces aren’t “traditional” smiles. The faces are more organic and quirky, and for some, you actually have to look hard to see the face. The standard Walmart/Joe Boxer yellow happy face is so engrained in our cultural landscape that the task of looking hard to find the faces forces viewers to actively engage.

    It’s authentic, simple and adorable. I love the lumpy leather chair’s frown… the challenge of coming up with the smile and frown expressions must have been fun for the creative team.

  • Jane Gittings

    Yes, everyone has seen happy and sad faces because Francois and Jean Robert have been producing books with faces since 1978. Francois and Jean Robert have helped all of you SEE the world in a different way because of their books. An original idea? Perhaps, perhaps not… but they have produced 4 books with copyrighted images. They have inspired others to create blogs such as Faces in Places. There is a tribute to the brothers on Flicker.

    The truth of the matter is that Ogilvy & Mather didn’t just happen on the faces idea because they saw faces in the world or faces on Flicker. They approached Mr. Robert through his rep in 2006 to use the faces concept to showcase the face lift Audi A3 with TV and print advertising in South Africa. They did not use Mr. Robert for the commercial. Then in 2009 Ogilvy & Mather NY uses the faces concept again for American Express. Coincidence?

    American Express spends millions and millions of dollars for these ads.
    The faces ads run all of the time. And what do people remember? The message, which ironically is about protection? The company? The agency? No, people remember the smiley faces set to beautiful cello music.

    The question still is, who owns an idea?
    Is is OK to steal the idea for commercial gain in the case of Ogilvy & Mather?
    Is it OK because agencies do this all of the time?

    What if it were YOUR idea? YOUR music? YOUR blog? YOUR ad?

    How would you feel?

    • jane Hartzell

      Your points are well made, and duly noted, but actually, the question I have is “what is the title and composer of this beautiful cello piece?”