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Trivago’s Ad Pitchman: Creepy, Handsome or Just Effective?

@denschaal

Aug 11, 2014 4:10 pm

Skift Take

Tim Williams is no William Shatner, but his TV commercials for Trivago are creating a lot of buzz, mostly unexpected, for the brand.

— Dennis Schaal

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The Trivago Guy, namely actor Tim Williams, is creating a lot of buzz, positive and negative, for the German metasearch site. Trivago


The Trivago Guy, aka Tim Williams, the Houston-born actor and Berlin resident who stars in hotel-search site Trivago’s TV commercials in North America, says he’s perplexed and amused about all the attention he’s getting from the TV spots, and he’s enjoying every minute of it.

“Bring it on, I love it,” Williams says. “It gives me something to read. I am happy to read it, either way.”

Williams, 48, who plays an American rock ‘n roll dad on popular German soap opera Gute Zeiten Schlechte Zeitin (Good Times, Bad Times), and aspires to be a rocker in real life, is reacting to all of the buzz, positive and negative, that his role has elicited.

Most of the talk centers on his scraggly look, his open collar, and belt-less, low-hanging pants, with some finding him appearing as if he just finished a three-day crack-inspired bender, and others finding the look sexy.

There are several parody Twitter accounts like that of Not Trivago Guy, a YouTube parody, and analyses of his appeal or lack thereof in Rolling Stone, Slate, The Globe and Mail, and a Tim Willams hometown news site, the HoustonPress. The chatter about “Trivago Guy” picked up during the World Cup, when Trivago blanketed ESPN with advertisements.

All of this would seem to be good collateral benefit for Trivago. “Family and friends send snapchat videos of me on their TVs in the middle of the night,” Williams says, adding that his dad called recently after seeing an image of his son and the commercial appear in the middle of a PGA golf tournament.

For the record, a stylist created the Trivago Guy look in a “painstaking process,” and they settled on the belt-less, scraggly look after trying out a variety of garb that included suits and belts, Williams says. “The client wanted something easy and approachable,” Williams says.

Williams, who is divorced with two children (ages 5 and 24) came to Germany in 2001, fell in love, divorced, and stayed after becoming crazy about Berlin, where he lives. Williams loves to travel, does so often for his acting work, and enjoys hotel living “as long as they have a good club sandwich, he says.

Before appearing in the Trivago commercials in 2013 and with four spots created to date, Williams says he booked his travel on Expedia, which acquired a controlling interest in the German metasearch site in 2013, but sometimes grew weary of all the effort it took to book his travel.

Williams says he now uses the Trivago app to find hotels, and visited the company’s headquarters in Dusseldorf for the first time last week. “I wanted to see for myself the company I’m representing,” Williams says. “It is young people from all over the world having fun at the job,” with perks including a climbing wall and a ski lift chair.

Trivago, of course, is enjoying all of the buzz around the Trivago Guy and the commercials. “Being somewhat new to the U.S. market, it has been our goal to introduce Trivago to a larger American audience, and the conversation surrounding the ‘Trivago Guy’ is definitely helping us achieve this,” says Jon Eichelberger, who heads Trivago’s North America operations.

Expedia CFO Mark Okerstrom said last week that Trivago has been growing aggressively in the U.S. — and certainly the TV advertising campaign has made a dent. “For example, in the U.S., as Trivago has grown pretty nicely and aggressively in this market, we’ve been able to grow in that channel across all of our brands pretty nicely,” Okerstrom said.

Peter Shankman, an author who describes himself as a marketing and customer service futurist, believes that there would be a potential downside for Trivago about Williams’ buzz.

“From a public relations and advertising perspective, they were not expecting this,” Shankman says. “I guarantee you they were not sitting around and saying, let’s find a 50% creepy, 50% sexy hotel guy who would totally make you think of Trivago as 50% creepy, 50% sexy.”

“Fifty percent of the people want to sleep with this guy and 50% want to kill him,” Shankman quips.

Trivago is getting its name out there with all of the buzz, Shankman says.

If Trivago were to replace Williams as the Trivago guy in the next series of advertisements, there would be a huge social media backlash, Shankman says.

“You don’t change horses in midstream as long as the horse is performing,” Shankman says. “If I start thinking more about the horse than the race, then you have a problem.”

For his part, Williams is coy about any upcoming Trivago advertising campaign, but feels “something is in the works.” The Trivago Guy’s fans and detractors will undoubtedly stay tuned.

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