Jan. 23, 2013 at 10:17 AM ET
William Shatner and Kaley Cuoco may want to watch their backs.
While the fate of the Priceline spokesman (and his recently revealed daughter!) remains unclear — they were last seen speeding away from a remote monastery — one of the company’s other brands is moving in on his turf.
On Tuesday, Priceline-subsidiary Booking.com launched its first ad campaign targeting the U.S. market. Set to play on TV, movie and computer screens across the country, the ads feature a variety of “regular-folk” travelers who approach their hotel rooms with trepidation, nervously open the doors and discover that “(They) got it right; (they) got it booking right!”
“The U.S. is one of the largest, if not the largest, travel markets in the world,” said Paul Hennessy, chief marketing officer for the Netherlands-based company. “We think the market is absolutely ready for a different kind of website, one that is completely focused on a single task, which is getting the best accommodations for our customers.”
In fact, even though many Americans are unfamiliar with the brand, Booking.com is the largest hotel-booking site in the world with access to 265,000 hotels in 178 countries. Launched in 1996, the company now books an average of 400,000 room nights per day and accounts for 150 million room nights per year.
The new campaign, titled Booking.yeah, is built on the premise of helping travelers experience the “delight of right” as in getting not just a room, but the absolutely best room for them. In the ads, a family of five shuffles down a hotel hallway, a trio of girlfriends trudge across the sand and a couple drives up to a jungle resort, all while an overly emotional narrator intones:
"This vacation has been a year in the planning and here you are, standing, nay, staring down your dream. The rest of your holiday hinges on the moment you walk through that door. The door opens ... you hold your breath ... and then you realize. You got it right; you got it booking right.”
According to Hennessy, it’s especially important for U.S. travelers to “get it right” because we get less vacation time than our counterparts in Europe.
“The American market is the most oversupplied in terms of choices but the most undersupplied in terms of vacation days,” he told NBC News. “Your vacation is so critical; if you don’t get it right, you might not get another bite of the apple for another year.”
Not just right, mind you, but “booking right,” a fervently repeated catchphrase that is clearly designed to echo an even more exclamatory one that, shall we say, rhymes with “You got it right; you got it bucking right.”
Whether or not this is “what you booking needed,” as the ads also proclaim, the new campaign can be seen as part of parent-company Priceline’s ongoing efforts to evolve. Those efforts include rolling out new Express Deals ads featuring Shatner and Cuoco earlier this month and buying Kayak.com for $1.8 billion last November.
“What Priceline is saying is we want to have all our brands operating everywhere,” said travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt of Hudson Crossing. “Booking.com is actually the largest division of the company so it makes perfect sense for them to initiate a U.S. presence.”
And, no doubt, give the competition a run for its money. “Booking.com entering the U.S. is not good news for Expedia because the site is going to be a very credible challenge to (Expedia-owned) Hotels.com,” said Harteveldt. “That’s really what (Priceline) is doing with this.”
Things could get very booking interesting, indeed.
Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.