In 1975, David Ogilvy of Ogilvy & Mather developed the highly successful Don't Leave Home Without Them ad campaign for American Express Traveler's Cheques, featuring Oscar-award-winning actor Karl Malden. Karl Malden served as the public face of American Express Travelers Cheques for 25 years. In the UK the spokesman was instead the television personality Alan Whicker.
After Karl Malden's departure and as the card was promoted over the traveller's cheques, American Express continued to use celebrities, such as Mel Blanc and ballerina Cynthia Gregory. A typical ad for the American Express Card began with a celebrity asking viewers: "Do you know me?" Although he/she gave hints to his/her identity, the star's name was never mentioned except as imprinted on an American Express Card, after which announcer Peter Thomas told viewers how to apply for it. Each ad concluded with the celebrity reminding viewers: "Don't Leave Home Without It." The "Don't Leave Home Without It" slogan was revived in 2005 for the prepaid American Express Travelers Cheque Card.
These slogans have been parodied numerous times:In The Sopranos episode, "Mr. & Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request...", Christopher Moltisanti concludes his sale of stolen credit card numbers to Middle Easterners with a quip: "Don't leave home without them!" This statement confuses the Middle Easterners, who are unfamiliar with the ad campaign. The long-running PBS children's TV series Sesame Street parodied the "Do you know me?/Don't Leave Home Without It" ad campaigns with three skits involving a Muppet character holding a Grown-Up Friend's hand while crossing the street. One skit featured Forgetful Jones (performed by Richard Hunt) with Olivia (Alaina Reed Hall) as his Grown-Up Friend, a second featured Bert and Ernie (Frank Oz and Jim Henson respectively) with Gordon (Roscoe Orman) as their Grown-Up Friend, and the third featured Big Bird (Caroll Spinney) with Bob (Bob McGrath) as his Grown-Up Friend. All three skits ended with their names being embossed at the bottom of a card looking like an American Express card that had a big human left hand in the middle with the words "Grown-Up Friend's Hand" above it, and a voiceover saying "A Grown-Up Friend's Hand. Don't cross the street without it." Another parody was seen on an episode of the CBS game show Press Your Luck, when the animated "Whammy Character" would give the "Do you know me?" tag line, followed by the display of an AmEx card-parody, which then had "WHAMMY" typed in on the bottom line of the card. In the pilot episode of "Masquerade (TV series)", a KGB general says the line "I suppose you never leave home without it", to a KGB agent when he sees that agent's 'National American' card. In a campaign speech during the 1984 Election, President Ronald Reagan said "If the big spenders get their way, they'll charge everything to your taxpayer's express card, and believe me, they never leave home without it." In the final episode of The Dukes of Hazzard, Boss Hogg is shot at by a former associate, the bullet striking a wallet he had kept in his pocket and being lodged in several credit cards. Narrator Waylon Jennings takes note of the situation and says, "I bet he's glad he didn't leave home without them" (referring to his credit cards). On the 1997 film Hercules during the song "Zero to Hero", the credit card is "Grecian Express". The 1989 movie Major League also parodied the campaign. In one scene, in which every player is dressed in a tuxedo, the Cleveland Indians tell viewers of the film why every player carries the American Express Card with much of the explanation done one line at a time by players Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), Eddie Harris (Chelcie Ross), Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), and Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen), and Manager Lou Brown (James Gammon). The scene ends with Willie "Mays" Hayes (a tuxedo-clad Wesley Snipes) sliding into home plate in front of the rest of the team, holding up his card and saying to the viewers: "The American Express Card. Don't steal home without it." In Batman & Robin Batman pulls out a Bat-Credit card and says he never leaves the cave without it. Yakov Smirnoff's book cover, America on Six Rubles a Day ISBN 978-0-394-75523-6 depicts a Russian card with the slogan "Don't leave home." The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman
American Express continues to use celebrities in their ads. Some notable examples include a late 1990s ad campaign with comedian Jerry Seinfeld, including the two 2004 webisodes in a series entitled "The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman." In late 2004, American Express launched the "My life. My card." brand campaign (also by Ogilvy & Mather) featuring famous American Express cardmembers talking about their lives. The ads have featured actors Kate Winslet, Robert De Niro, Ken Watanabe and Tina Fey, Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, fashion designer Collette Dinnigan, comedian and talk show hostess Ellen DeGeneres, golfer Tiger Woods, professional snowboarder Shaun White, tennis pros Venus Williams and Andy Roddick, Real Madrid manager José Mourinho, and film directors Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, M. Night Shyamalan and most recently singer Beyoncé Knowles. In 2007, a two-minute black-and-white ad entitled "Animals" starring Ellen DeGeneres won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial.
Many American Express credit card ads feature a sample American Express Card with the name "C F Frost" on the front. This is not a fabricated name, as Charles F. Frost was an advertising executive from Ogilvy & Mather.
In addition, American Express was one of the earliest users of cause marketing, to great success. A 1983 promotion advertised that for each purchase made with an American Express Card, American Express would contribute one penny to the renovation of the Statue of Liberty. The campaign generated contributions of $1.7 million to the Statue of Liberty restoration project. What would soon capture the attention of marketing departments of major corporations was that the promotion generated approximately a 28% increase in American Express card usage by consumers. Building on its earlier promotion, American Express later conducted a four-year Charge Against Hunger program, which generated approximately $22 million for a charity addressing poverty and hunger relief. In 2006, as part of Bono's Product Red, American Express launched the American Express Red Card with campaign starred by supermodel Gisele Bündchen. The card, currently available only in the United Kingdom, makes a donation to fight AIDS with every purchase made using the card. In May 2007, American Express launched an initiative called the Members Project. Cardholders were invited to submit ideas for projects and American Express is funding the winning (provide clean drinking water) project $2 million.