Venmo Tries to Take the Awkwardness Out of Splitting the Bill With Friends

Mobile payment app asks people to 'pony up'

Headshot of Lauren Johnson

If you walk into any bar or restaurant swarmed with millennials these days, chances are you will hear a few people tell their friends, "Just Venmo me" while paying the bill as a way of saying, "I got it, but pay me back."

The mobile payment app lets people send money to their friends and family members and has particularly gained steam with younger consumers who are ditching cash for digital payments.

So, for its first national campaign, it's leaning heavily into the splitting of money for a campaign dubbed "Pony Up" from agencies Preacher and Noble People. According to Venmo, the app processed $3.9 million in the second quarter of 2016, up from $7.5 billion in 2015.

"It highlights what makes Venmo most special: Removing the awkwardness of asking someone for money or paying someone back, and replacing it with a focus on the actual social experience, whether it's splitting the cost of a girls' weekend or smoothies after a workout with your friends," said Kasia Leyden, director of marketing at Venmo.

Starting this week, 30-second and 60-second TV spots are running on Comedy Central, Adult Swim, MTV and Hulu between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m.—the busiest times that people use the app.

The idea behind the campaign is that Venmo takes the pain out of deciding who needs to pay when you're out with friends. "Happy hour should end happy," proclaims a guy leaving a bar with his friends in the 30-second spot, adding, "Now we pony up."

On Sept. 19, the brand will launch a Snapchat geofilter in Austin, Texas; Chicago; Portland and Nashville that will let the app's users overlay a branded graphic on top of their photos and videos. There will also be Snapchat ads running within the Comedy Central and MTV Discover channels.

In addition to digital media buys, Venmo also designed a custom emoji in its apps that users can add to their posts when they send money.

The effort also includes colorful out-of-home ads in the target cities that play up the same idea of splitting a bill.

Check out the creative below.

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.