You can see travel advertisers on TV trying to create memorable characters. There's Priceline's The Negotiator and attempts by Trivago with the Trivago Guy and Hotels.com with Captain Obvious. It's a very tough thing to do, and CheapOair is trying to take a shortcut.
Both guys talk travel, have considerable stubble, flaunt open-collar shirts, have distinctive voices, and do a lot of pointing and swiping to make their selections.
One of them, the Trivago Guy, played by actor Tim Williams, caused a stir in the media and on social media with his series of TV commercials for Trivago, the Germany-based hotel search site owned by Expedia.
Viewers seemed split on whether the Trivago Guy was creepy, sexy or just hungover, but Trivago didn’t mind, coveted the buzz, and even launched a Trivago makeover contest to “fix” their ad spokesman.
Now along comes U.S.-based online travel agency CheapOair, one of the largest U.S.-based OTAs, with a TV spot of its own featuring a pitchman with lots of echoes to the Trivago Guy.
Better-dressed than the Trivago Guy, the CheapOair Guy ambles around a coffee bar wearing a sports jacket, and a black, open-collar shirt that’s finished off with jeans and sneakers.
The CheapOair Guy has more and darker stubble than the Trivago Guy, but just like when the Trivago Guy selects dates for a hotel stay, the CheapOair Guy points and taps Search, Select and Book when walking viewers through the flight search and booking process on CheapOair.com.
Even the rhythms to the spoken word in each commercial have parallels.
Take a look at the recently launched CheapOair Mix and Match Flights TV spot, which iSpot.tv reports has had 29 national airings, and Trivago’s Ideal Hotel ad below it to judge the similarities for yourself.
Here’s the Trivago Ideal Hotel ad:
Peter Shankman, an author who describes himself as a marketing and customer service futurist, isn’t impressed with CheapOair’s ad.
Shankman agrees that the two ads are similar, and wonders why CheapOair took this tack. “And why? The Trivago Guy is as creepy as shit,” Shankman says. “Can’t they be original?”
Chris Cuddy, chief commercial officer of CheapOair parent Fareportal, characterizes the ad as a test.
“Our previous ads have featured women or couples so we are testing a male lead this time,” Cuddy says. “This is running nationwide on TV and online. We continue to learn and evolve in this area.”
“Direct response is in our DNA,” Cuddy says. “This advertisement continues our successful results with direct response formats online, in print, in radio, and in previous TV commercials.
“For example, we prominently show our phone number which is a key differentiator, explicitly highlight some of CheapOair’s flight search capabilities (e.g., three-step booking, mix and match airlines, alternate dates), and showcase several of CheapOair’s 450+ airline partners by name.”
Trivago declined to comment on the CheapOair ad.
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Photo credit: CheapOair's new TV ad, "Mix and Match Flights." Does it remind you of anyone? CheapOair