Does something go viral because it’s good, because it genuinely struck a chord at exactly the right cultural time, or does it go viral because enough paid advertising has gone into it? As we sit in our office watching the latest Hotel Trivago advert, our team argues (mostly over one another) as to the merits of this advert and how genius it is, if at all. And apparently, we’re not the only ones to be raising our voices about it, as professionals across the industry have either stuck up for the ad or damned it to hell. It has become one of those adverts that splits the room.
If you’re unfamiliar with the adverts, we can only assume that you’ve been living in a remote village in the Sahara Desert with absolutely no access to wifi or technology, and that’s cool, but for the rest of you, you’ll recognise the dark-haired woman in a blue shirt offering you the lowest prices in hotels. They’re plastered in just about every Underground station, on busses across the country and every spare billboard going. They’re everywhere, and because they’re everywhere, they’ve slipped into the psyche of the British public and we’re all googling ‘hotel Trivago’ the minute the word holiday is mentioned. They work. They do what they’re supposed to and as far as marketing and advertisements go, this is a roaring success, whether the British public like it or not.
In contentious times when brands are fearful of getting slapped on the wrist by angry Twitter users, or following in the footsteps of the Pepsi/Jenner debacle, there is a comfort to such a safe marketing campaign. There’s barely anything to it and therefore there’s nothing to be offended by. No one will complain that it made light of their concerns or beliefs, and there won’t be a media outcry because it piggybacked onto socio-political issues. And often, when it’s hard to get brands to agree to anything at all, there is something to be said for this style of marketing. Because actually, not everything has to push buttons right, and nor does every campaign have to be a contender for 18 Lions and the Cannes festival (Fearless Girl we’re looking at you). And in a time of business and consumers choosing to switch off from adverts, throwing the same message at them repeatedly can be effective. Not to mention this can be done with a hotel search engine because it’s practical, quick, efficient and people want to get a deal. They’re already convinced to use a platform like this, especially in a comparison culture. The site practically sells itself and knows what it is. It doesn’t need to be an emotional five-minute video story to get customers to use their site. That would probably be more of an overkill than the (what seems like) 300 Trivago posters that are plastered around Kings Cross station.
That’s not to say that storytelling and creativity aren’t important. They’re the life blood of this industry and yes, agencies do have a responsibility to push themselves creatively to always be producing their best work for clients. (Clearly, no one was pushed creatively over at Trivago. Creativity might not even have come into it). But it’s well to recognise that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Sure, Trivago could have poured thousands of pounds into the creative direction of the campaign and even produced a short film that became one of the most shared ads of the year, but why spend the money when you don’t have to. Perhaps the genius of this advert is that they recognised that they didn’t need to jump through every creative hoop, and spend every dime and dollar. It works just fine as it is and really, does anyone want more from their hotel search engine comparison site advert? Let’s be real, probably not.