Skift Take

In mid-2015 Kayak opted to go dark on U.S. TV and to put more investment into broadcast advertising in Europe. Companies have to make such hard choices sometimes. Kayak's Hafner claims, however, "the sky didn't fall" in the U.S., although one could surmise that Google Flights is "knock-knock-knockin' on heaven's door."

Flight and hotel metasearch site Kayak returned to television advertising in the United States in late December after a roughly year-and-a-half absence stateside, and interestingly the spot, Kayak Trend Forecaster, highlights a tool, airfare forecasting, that rivals Google Flights and Hopper, do as well.

The Kayak Trend Forecaster ad [first embed below] began running December 26 on channels ranging from CNN and NBC to Bravo, and features a guy with a man bun who cuts the protrusion when his “style forecaster” advises him to take the scissors to it “now” in order to stay trendy. Another young man, holding a mobile phone displaying Kayak’s airfare forecast for San Francisco International Airport, likens the style forecaster’s role to that of Kayak’s price forecast tool.

“Oh, kind of like how Kayak’s price forecast tool analyzes over 1 billion travel searches to let you know if you should book now or wait,” the phone-wielding man says. Then comes the Kayak tagline. “Get the information you need with Kayak,” the ad’s narrator says. “Travel problem solved.”

Up until about a year ago, Kayak’s tagline was “Search one and done.” The change is a new emphasis on Kayak’s services throughout the trip instead of just when travelers are searching for deals.

It’s Not About Google Flights, Kayak CEO Says

Kayak co-founder and CEO Steve Hafner tells Skift the Kayak Trend Forecaster TV ad did not come in response to competitive inroads by Google Flights and especially not Hopper, although he chimes in that Google Flights is doing well.

Instead, Hafner says, the Kayak Trend Forecaster ad is one of a quartet of ads [embedded below] that have been running online in the U.S. on sites ranging from Hulu to Pandora, and each highlights a different Kayak tool, whether they be oriented toward finding flights, hotels or cars, or making decisions informed by user reviews.

On desktop, Kayak’s price forecasts — whether to buy now or wait — appear at the upper left of the flight-results screen. On mobile the forecast shows up atop the flight results. Price tracking and forecasting by sites and apps such as Google Flights, Kayak, Hopper and Hitlist is heating up.

Each of the four Kayak ads currently online in the U.S. will be making its way to broadcast TV in the U.S., Hafner said, although only the Trend Forecaster ad has aired so far. According to advertising metrics site, the Kayak Trend Forecaster ad has had about 244 U.S. national airings from December 26 to January 3 and it estimates Kayak has spent around $513,000 on the broadcasts.

While Kayak went dark in terms of TV ads in the U.S. about 18 months ago, it continued to advertise online in the U.S. and to do TV advertising in Europe, Hafner says.

the sky didn’t fall

“The ad agencies told us the sky would fall but it didn’t happen,” Hafner says. “Nothing happened except we made a lot of money and invested in Europe.”

One could argue, though, that Google Flights and Trivago might have picked up some U.S. share.

Now, Hafner says, Kayak is investing back in the U.S. in TV advertising.

He doesn’t mind, though, that the first ad back on TV in the U.S. has to do with flights because it is a point of differentiation with hotel-only and newly public-company Trivago.

Are flights a plaything for Google?

Observers point to Google Flights picking up market share in the U.S. given its built-in marketing power as part of Google. Hafner says Google Flights is a good product and is picking up an audience although he argues that Google Flights “is a “hobby” for Google compared with Google’s hotel advertising/metasearch business.

Consumers aren’t bookmarking Google Flights, Hafner claims, and the end-game all depends how aggressive Google wants to be in flights.

“The real action is on the hotel side,” Hafner says.

Asked about why Kayak retired its “Search one and done tagline” in favor of “Travel problem solved,” Hafner said Kayak wants to be involved during consumers’ trips and not just when they are searching.

Says Hafner: “We want Kayak to be the best app to plan and manage travel.  So we’re keen to be useful to travelers on the go.  We already do so much of this … flight status, gate changes, baggage claim etc. that it makes sense to talk about it.”

This ad is currently on U.S. TV and online.

The following ads are slated to appear on U.S. TV but are currently online only.


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Tags: advertising, kayak, marketing

Photo credit: Kayak touts its airfare-forecasting features in its first TV ad to run in the U.S. in the past 18 months. Pictured is a still from the ad, 'Kayak Trend Forecaster.'

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