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Forget Priceline’s William Shatner, Hotels.com’s Captain Obvious, the Trivago Guy, and Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome. TripAdvisor returned to TV advertising in the U.S. Tuesday after a two-year absence with a bathrobe-clad owl character, inspired by the company’s Ollie the Owl logo, advising consumers that through TripAdvisor they can retrieve hotel results from 200 sites, save up to 30 percent on the rates, and find the “right hotel for you and the best price.”
The tagline for this initial “Little Wiser” campaign, which will be a series of ads, is “TripAdvisor: latest reviews, lowest prices.” TripAdvisor showed Skift a 30-second and two 15-second TV ads that are part of the initial rollout. [See one of the 15-second spots embedded below.]
There isn’t any messaging in this first series of TV ads, which vice president of brand marketing Neela Pal told Skift will evolve, about booking on TripAdvisor other than the company’s overall tagline at the end of the ads: “Know better, book better, go better.”
Pal said the campaign starts with an emphasis on comparing hotel prices, and subsequent ads might touch on booking on TripAdvisor and other site features.
TripAdvisor is “well-known but not known well,” Pal said. “People know our name but not our full value proposition.”
Read More From Skift Research: A Deep Dive Into TripAdvisor’s Competitive Position in Travel 2017.
The fact that the campaign doesn’t push booking on TripAdvisor fits well with the company’s de-emphasis of Instant Booking on TripAdvisor, which is still a site feature but not as prominent following its recent redesign. Instead, consumers can click on a link and navigate to a site such as Booking.com, Expedia.com, or Marriott.com to complete a booking.
TripAdvisor announced earlier this year that it would spend $70 million on TV advertising in 2017. The TV campaign rolled out in the U.S. Tuesday, will be introduced in the UK, France and Spain in the next couple of weeks, and will debut in Australia in July, Pal said.
Ad agency Supermoon, which became TripAdvisor’s agency earlier this year, crafted the campaign. It is geared to emphasize the owl spokesperson’s wisdom while projecting confidence and a relaxed manner as the character lies back on a hotel bed in his — yes, the owl is a he with a male voice — bathrobe, in a great hotel, Pal said.
There are certain parallels between the Travelocity Roaming Gnome, which traces its beginnings to around 2003, and TripAdvisor’s owl character. Pal pointed out that TripAdvisor’s Ollie the Owl logo has long been a company asset while the Roaming Gnome didn’t have any Travelocity history when it was introduced.
The owl is “not a manufactured asset,” Pal said.
The owl is also a lot cuter than the Gnome.
Supermoon has also done work for Expedia’s Hotwire, Ancestry.com, and The Honest Company.
The TripAdvisor ad tagline, “TripAdvisor: latest reviews, lowest prices,” is differentiated a tad from rival Trivago’s “Find the ideal hotel at the best price.”
Trivago CFO Axel Hefer recently told Skift that its advertising strategy revolves around spots that are “explainer” ads. He said the hotel-search site, which competes with TripAdvisor, decided its advertising has to teach people how to use the site before it can seek to create an emotional affinity with the brand.
TripAdvisor’s new campaign is also in the “explainer” category, instructing consumers that they can find hotel results on the site from 200 hotel-booking sites, and low prices.
The difference between TripAdvisor and Trivago, Pal said, “is we actually have a lot of emotional affinity. We have some of that emotional attachment.”
TripAdvisor’s new campaign will air on a mix of media, including network and cable channels, Pal said. It is predominantly a TV campaign in its initial incarnation.
iSpot.tv found that as of mid-afternoon Tuesday, TripAdvisor was running three spots and they had aired 36 times on national TV.
TripAdvisor was not immediately putting the campaign on social media because officials consider it a work in progress that will evolve. Subsequent ads may look significantly different as TripAdvisor measures the performance of the debut.
The TV campaign comes as TripAdvisor looks to accelerate growth after struggling with its rollout of Instant Booking in 2016. TripAdvisor’s stock price opened at $37.88 on Tuesday compared with a 52-week high of $71.69.
The company’s revenue per hotel shopper, a key metric, improved has been climbing in the U.S., which was the first geography to see Instant Booking completely rolled out, as have the number of unique hotel shoppers.
TripAdvisor struggled with the transition from metasearch — or clicking over to third-party sites for booking — to becoming a booking site and is now downplaying the latter feature in favor of its more lucrative metasearch offering.
TripAdvisor hasn’t done any TV advertising over the last two years as it labored with the transition and then redesigned its sites to place metasearch rather than Instant Booking as the dominant option.
In the interim, rival Trivago and other sites such as Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Travelocity and Booking.com have all been heavily advertising.
TripAdvisor’s new campaign is designed to get its voice back on TV and more in the public mindset.