From Amsterdam, a Lodging Web Site Invades the U.S.

/// From Amsterdam, a Lodging Web Site Invades the U.S.

January 22, 2013  |  Blog

CAMPAIGNS for Web sites that offer lodging reservations usually feature colorful characters, perhaps to counter the prosaic, transactional nature of e-commerce. Among them are the Roaming Gnome, for Travelocity; the Negotiator, played by William Shatner, for Priceline; hordes of animated travelers, for Hotels.com; and a man in a crash helmet delivering Price Assurance checks, for Orbitz.

A competitive Web site is taking a decidedly different tack as it begins its first image campaign, as part of efforts to raise its brand’s profile among American travelers. The campaign, which is to start on Tuesday, promotes Booking.com, a unit of the Priceline Group that operates separately from Priceline.

The Booking.com campaign, with an initial budget estimated at more than $35 million, will include commercials on television and in movie theaters as well as ads online. The campaign is being created by the Amsterdam office of Wieden & Kennedy, which was chosen after an unpublicized review that also included agencies based in cities like New York and San Francisco.

The Priceline Group classifies Booking.com, founded in 1996, as one of its international brands, along with Agoda.com and Rentalcars.com. Booking.com, based in Amsterdam, has been offering accommodations at American hotels, motels and resorts for the last six years, said Paul J. Hennessy, chief marketing officer at Booking.com.

“It’s time for our coming-out party,” Mr. Hennessy said in an interview on Friday in Midtown Manhattan as he offered a preview of the campaign. “The U.S. is one of the largest travel markets in the world and we see great potential there.”

It is also one of the most competitive travel markets, Mr. Hennessy acknowledged. But, he said, he believes there is an opening for Booking.com because the lodging Web sites that are familiar to Americans have “commoditized the market” by “all pounding the same message of low-price guarantees and best prices.”

“American customers are ready for a new hero, if you will,” Mr. Hennessy said, “and Booking.com could be that hero.”

To underline that, the campaign will celebrate what Mark Bernath, the executive creative director at Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam who joined Mr. Hennessy for the interview, called “the delight of right” — that is, the potential moment of truth when a traveler who booked a room online “opens the door and has a first look” and is pleased or relieved, rather than dismayed or disgusted, by what he or she finds inside.

“The pressure on the booker can be quite intense,” Mr. Bernath said, “so anyone who puts the best tools into your hands” to produce a positive outcome will be perceived “as a good partner to have.”

That is perhaps more relevant in the United States than in Europe, said Mr. Bernath, an American who has worked at Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam since 2007.

“The plight of the American traveler,” Mr. Bernath said, is that the number of days of vacation “is less than in Europe.”

As a result, “it’s more crucial, if you have two weeks instead of four or five, to nail it,” he added, when booking accommodations.

That is brought to life in the 60-second commercial that will serve to introduce the campaign. The spot takes a tongue-in-cheek approach, presenting a family of five on vacation in the dramatic way that NFL Films covers a Super Bowl.

“This vacation has been a year in the planning,” a stentorian narrator says as the family walks, in slow motion, down a hotel hallway, and “hinges on” the reaction to the room.

“The door opens,” the narrator says. “You hold your breath. And then you realize, you got it right. You got it Booking right.”

The narrator encourages travelers to “bask in the Booking glory” and concludes: “Booking.com. Booking.yeah”; he pronounces the latter “Booking-dot-yeah.” The phrase “Booking.yeah” appears on screen along with the theme of the campaign, “Planet earth’s No. 1 accommodation site.”

Using the brand name as an adjective and rendering it as “Booking.yeah” is an example of a marketing tactic known as nameonics, which ties a brand name to a product quality or benefit. Other examples include “Zestfully clean,” for Zest soap; “Krogering,” for the Kroger supermarket chain; and, in a campaign created last summer by Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam, “Power through,” for Powerade sports beverages.

“In a lot of advertising in the category, there are beautiful places, beautiful people,” Mr. Hennessy said, “or just giving you a number,” referring to the price of the room being booked, “but no connection to the brand.”

By contrast, the brand is an intrinsic part of the Booking.com campaign, he added.

Other, shorter commercials will make similar points. One spot, which shows two gleeful women bumping chests, declares, “Behold the power of a well-booked accommodation.”

In another spot, which asserts that “when you get it right,” “you’ll never want to leave,” a man is depicted having to drag a woman from their room to get her to check out.

And a spot about using Booking.com on mobile devices promises that the Web site means “the odds are in your favor,” in a moment that seems to mash up “The Hunger Games” and “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

The media buying for the campaign is being handled by the New York office of Wieden & Kennedy. As the campaign runs in the United States, Mr. Hennessy said, executives at Booking.com will “see how it resonates and see how customers react to it.”

Based on that reaction, the ads could be expanded into markets like Europe, he added, where Booking.com is far better known.

Link: From Amsterdam, a Lodging Web Site Invades the U.S.


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