Don't get us wrong: Expedia, Vrbo and Booking.com will all get mileage out of their in-game or pre-game Super Bowl ads. But they lack breakthrough potential.
Booking.com and Expedia released their Super Bowl ads prior to Sunday’s Big Game, and it’s doubtful Slack channels, Zoom meetings or breakfasts at the local diner will be abuzz with talk about either of these roughly $6 million spots on Monday morning.
There is really nothing wrong with the ads and they are on point with their sometimes-predictable brand messages, but they don’t take any big chances, and tend to underwhelm.
Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines, which last advertised in the Super Bowl in 2020, will return with a spot that achieves a great emotional tone during the second quarter of this year’s contest . The ad, called Pangea, which is said to have connected the world’s land masses, features actor Morgan Freeman.
See the Expedia, Booking.com, and Turkish Airlines in-game ads, and the Vrbo (pre-game) ads, and a Super Bowl-trolling Discover Puerto Rico campaign below.)
As English actor and musician Idris Elba says in Booking.com’s ad, “Idris Elba says things,” which revives its until-now retired Booking.Yeah campaign, “We’re definitely not lit,” adding, “We’re good at helping you book travel.”
Expedia’s entry, “Stuff/Made to Travel,” features actor and adventurer Ewan McGregor extolling the allures of “saving more on things that matter” over buying “a slightly sportier SUV.” That taps a trend, but is hardly ground-breaking.
Expedia Group’s Vrbo released its pre-game “A Place for Together” ad, set to Kermit the Frog singing “Right Where I Belong,” and pitching Vrbo and its vacation homes as the ideal venue for multi-generational family stays. What may be cringe-worthy and so outdated to some, Kermit might resonate with Vrbo’s target audience.
I informally asked some Skift staffers about their reactions to the three ads. Here were some of the responses.
“They are just OK. I would say Expedia’s is better than Booking’s.”
The same staffer said: “Both are wasted opportunities. They are not terrible ads. Just not great.”
One staffer summed up the two ads as “super flat.”
Of the Expedia ad in particular, one staffer said, “I feel like the thing Expedia gets right is the mystery/anticipation piece, where you are being entertained but have no idea who the ad is for or what it’s about. Usually a bigger punch line for those in a classic Super Bowl style.”
Another Skifter’s take was: “The Booking.com ad was nothing special.”
Still another summed up both ads: “Expedia’s is better. Booking’s could have been way better and funnier with Idris, but they played it safe.”
One veteran staffer felt positive about Expedia’s in-game ad, but was horrified by Vrbo’s pre-game spot.
“I think the Expedia one is good for a big corporation,” he said. “It mocks Super Bowl-style ads while delivering a message I think people will agree with: spend money on experiences.”
Of Vrbo’s ad, however, the same Skifter said: “That Vrbo ad is terrifying. All I can think of is the poor neighbors next door to that giant party house.”
One staffer was very enthusiastic about the Turkish Airlines spot.
“I liked it much better than the others,” she said. “It speaks to reconnecting, which is what many of us continue to crave this year. The world reopening. Plus you can’t not like Morgan Freeman!”
Not a Super Bowl ad, but released a couple of days before the gridiron melee, Discover Puerto Rico’s “Pass the Pigskin” digital campaign plays off the game, and creatively touts a delicious visit to the island’s Pork Highway or Ruta del Lechón. (Disclosure: Skift has a seat on the Discover Puerto Rico advisory board.)
In a Skift interview Thursday, Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern said put its Expedia and Vrbo spots into perspective.
“For the first time, we really have a calendar of how we’re going to do the whole thing,” Kern said. “It happens to be that for two of our brands, we thought we had the creative and the ideas to make an impact at the Super Bowl. But it’s really just a piece of a longer-term strategy to land our message about what each brand is about, what it stands for, why you need it, what it does for you. “
He added there will be more to come with additional creative for Expedia Group’s other brands to distinguish them from one another.
Booking.com Chief Marketing Officer Arjan Dijk said a couple of weeks ago that the timing of the Super Bowl coincides with people beginning to plan their spring and summer vacations.
“Combined with the momentum we have (in the U.S.) and the market, we really believe it is the right time to go big,” Dijk said. “We really want to show to a very broad American audience we are there, and we are the easiest platform.”
Here is more background on the Booking and Expedia ads.
Discover Puerto Rico
Update: Information about Turkish Airlines’ Super Bowl add was added to this story after publication.
Super Bowl LVI Coverage
Updated Jan. 24, 2022
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Tags: advertising, booking, booking holdings, booking.com, brands, discover puerto rico, expedia, expedia group, experiences, marketing, puerto rico, short-term rentals, super bowl, tourism, travel ads, vacation rentals, vrbo
Photo credit: Actor Ewan McGregor making Expedia's Super Bowl 2022 ad.