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TripAdvisor Drops Outmoded Little Wiser Owl Character From Ads

Dennis Schaal, Skift
TripAdvisor Drops Outmoded Little Wiser Owl Character From Ads

If you want to reach millennial and Gen Z travelers, it’s debatable whether an owl character, decked out in a bathrobe and perched at times on a hotel room pillow, should be your go-to brand ambassador.

A new TripAdvisor brand campaign, unleashed in the U.S. a week ago on TV and various digital platforms, is almost as noteworthy for the things that are absent than for the content included.

The bathrobe-clad Little Wiser owl character is blissfully missing in action (at least temporarily after first appearing in ads in 2017), and TripAdvisor’s recent emphasis on hotel price comparisons and bookings, is nowhere to be seen.

Instead, TripAdvisor rolled out a 30-second spot, Save Things to Do: Global, that focuses on planning things to do either on a couch before you leave for a vacation or in-destination after you arrive.

The ad features a catchy, rhythmic tune, Boom by X Ambassadors, and for around the first 20 seconds of the spot it takes viewers to a San Francisco Love Tour, replete with a woman flashing peace signs with a hippy-looking VW Microbus in the background; a Hierve El Agua tour in southern Mexico, and a morning practice session with Sumo wrestlers in Tokyo, for example.

Then comes an image of a traveler, perhaps sitting on a couch at home, viewing information about a snorkel, kayak and dolphin experience, on the TripAdvisor mobile app.

Within a few frames, after viewing other tour choices on the phone, a message appears, “Save things to do before you go. See what happens on your trip.”

“The campaign’s intent is to help travelers in active planning mode understand how they can utilize the ‘saves’ feature by clicking the red heart icon on business listings with information on where to go, stay or dine,” said TripAdvisor spokesman Brian Hoyt.

People who click on the “saves” feature while searching for tours, hotels or restaurants “have a higher propensity to book travel,” Hoyt said.

Test and Learn

ISpot.tv estimates that TripAdvisor spent some $228,000 — not a great amount — on U.S. TV advertising during the six days the spot has been running, and it attracted some 10.6 million impressions. The top three TV channels that aired the advertisement were Travel channel, A&E, and Pop TV. The ad will also run on a variety of digital platforms, including Hulu and YouTube.

The U.S. spend on this ad, which will run throughout the summer, is seemingly very modest.

TripAdvisor is spending more, an estimated half a million dollars in a week, on U.S. TV for a different cut of the ad, which is called Save Things to Do: California, according to iSpot.tv analytics. It has wracked up some 48 million impressions, and the top three channels where it has aired have been A&E, HGTV, and NBC.

The California version of the ad is meant as a prototype for destination marketing organizations that want to partner with TripAdvisor by co-branding the TV or digital ad.

The ads, produced by TripAdvisor’s current create agency, The Many, are in keeping with TripAdvisor push for more mobile bookings, and its tilt toward in-destination experiences and dining, the fastest-growing segment of its business, instead of hotel booking.

New Campaign in 2019 or Next Year?

TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer, speaking during the company’s second quarter earnings session with analysts on August 8, seemed to be signaling that a new advertising campaign would not be imminent.

When asked whether a new campaign was coming in the third quarter, which ends September 30, Kaufer said:

“No, that would be far too early. What we have going for next year is — and I want to back up. I wouldn’t phrase it as just a television effort because we really do believe that there’s a host of different media opportunities available for us. And as the branding rolls out later in the year and the advertising begins probably closer to next year, maybe that will help set your expectations.”

Asked to clarify the new campaign and Kaufer’s statement, Hoyt said the current campaign is short and runs during “the final weeks of summer.” He said it could be integrated into a future campaign under the auspices of a new creative agency. “The advertisement being aired on TV and digital channels this summer is from our current creative agency, The Many,” Hoyt said. “Steve’s comments during the question and answer session during the earnings call referenced the ongoing search we have for a new creative partner, and a new campaign that will be an important part of our brand transformation efforts in 2020.”

TripAdvisor is searching for a new creative agency, and plans on using learnings from the summer campaign to inform a wider campaign under new agency leadership next year, Hoyt said.

The summer campaign likely has the fingerprints of Lindsay Nelson, hired in October as TripAdvisor president, all over it. Nelson is responsible for TripAdvisor’s global platform and branding.

Little Wiser

Does the summer “saves” campaign mean that TripAdvisor has killed off the Little Wiser owl?

Not necessarily.

Priceline, for example, sent The Negotiator character, played by William Shatner, hurtling off a bridge on a truck to his seeming inevitable demise, but brought him back in commercials before discontinuing him anew.

Maybe Little Wiser isn’t a relic and disadvantageous. A millennial just walked by and said Little Wiser “is cute.”

Correction: These TripAdvisor advertisements are currently running in the U.S. only, not globally.

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