Marriott International removed a video commercial from its YouTube page that allegedly compares travel agents to a creepy gas station attendant.
The video, which has now been set to private, was one of three commercials branded “#itpaystobookdirect,” which encouraged consumers to book directly with Marriott to earn benefits like free Wi-Fi and to “get the best rates.” The other two ads are still live on YouTube.
The tag line is “you get the best rates on Marriott.com. It pays to book direct.”
An image of the ad (see above) also says: “See why direct is better,” a message that isn’t winning the hotel chain friends among travel agents.
The series stars YouTube personality Grace Helbig and features her efforts to help solve random peoples’ personal problems and encourage travelers to book directly. The video in question featured a pair of travelers receiving sketchy advice from a creepy gas station attendant.
Travel agents said the gas station attendant represented a jab at travel agents providing bad advice. Marriott removed the video after receiving a complaint from the American Society of Travel Agents.
“We took it down because we didn’t realize it was offensive to travel agents,” Carmen Perez, global director of travel industry sales for Marriott International, told Skift. “It was never meant to be anything negative about agents.”
TV metrics service ISpot.Tv shows that the ad series never aired on national TV, although it could have aired in local markets.
“Once we realized there was a problem, we took it down,” said Perez. “The thing with the gas station attendant wasn’t meant to disparage agents; the ad campaign was just meant to be playful.”
Agents have been especially irked by Marriott’s advertising campaigns that push for consumers to book directly and avoid agents.
“We had very good dialogue with Marriott, and were grateful they were responsive to our request,” said Zane Kerby, president of the American Society of Travel Agents. “Of course, [being offensive] wasn’t their intention at all.”
Hilton’s ad states: “When you plan a vacation at any one of Hilton’s 12 distinct brands you always get the lowest price only when you book direct at Hilton.com.”