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Matt Williams: why Booking.com is a booking good ad

In advertising there are a couple of things you can guarantee during the first few weeks of the year. Firstly, every agency in town will be magically pulling new clients out of thin air to add on to their new business ranking as Campaign produces its final New Business League Table. These clients, of course, will all be spending around £10 million in billings, the agency assures us. Even that clothing brand that usually only runs a couple of press ads each year.

Secondly, the first few weeks in January always see the launch of thousands of holiday ads, as brands desperately hope to cash in on depressed families needing a pick me up now Christmas is over and there’s nothing in life to look forward to. Some of these ads will be quite good, some will be really rather awful, and some will star Jamie Redknapp pissing about on a beach pretending like he always goes on package holidays with Thomas Cook.

The final guarantee of any New Year is that, no matter what, the public will still find time to get all worked up and annoyed about adverts. The mascots are too scary. The celebrity is too raunchy. The strapline is misleading. Can you believe that even after drinking multiple Red Bulls, people still aren’t growing wings?

I can’t speak on the first point (although during my time compiling Campaign’s New Business League I certainly spent far too much time explaining to agencies that, unless they could provide me with a confirmation letter from the client, I wouldn’t be adding £23 million to their new business tally off the back of them winning their local coffee shop’s social media account).

But it appears that points number two and three have already been covered off in one single swoop.

Yes, it was as early as January 8 that travel brand Booking.com managed to launch a new ad, and find out that it was being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Viewers found the ad offensive, apparently. Because they reckon that the repetition of ‘booking’ suggests a swear word.

Well yes. Of course it does. We know that. Whoever approved the ad in the first place knew that. And Booking.com know that. Just like they knew it last year, when they did the same thing, and attracted similar complaints.

I really hope the ASA don’t pull the ad. But not in a “this is political correctness gone mad” way that you usually see surrounding these types of discussions. I don’t find the spot offensive, for what it’s worth, but it’s not the ‘Booking’ line that I’m concerned about.

The real reason I want this ad out there on display is because, well, it’s just really booking good.

Too often in Modern Day Advertising, we’re overwhelmed with messages. With content crammed into marketing campaigns. A TV ad isn’t a TV ad – it’s a direction to a website, a teaser for longer form content, a basis for a wider PR push. A don’t-forget-to-put-the-hashtag-on-the-end-and-tell-everyone-about-the-competition 30-second film.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But if you’re not careful, it can very quickly dilute the power of the original campaign thought. And it can happen to even the very best of brands.

Which is why I love this Booking.com ad so much. I’m not 100 per cent sure which agency is responsible for it (although a quick Google search suggests that it may be Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam), but whoever they were, they identified a wonderful insight surrounding the fear of booking holidays – a fear that lasts right up to the moment you open the door to your hotel room – and communicated it brilliantly.

There’s no mixed message. There’s nothing overly complicated or needlessly fussy. We just get a smart and relatable message reinforced through a cleverly written and nicely shot film, which features some great performances and a perfectly pitched voiceover.

I don’t want to get too gushing about it. It won’t win a Cannes Grand Prix anytime soon. But in a sea of content churned out by marketers already this year, it’s one that’s stood out for me. The fact that’s down to an intelligent bit of advertising, rather than it being slightly rude, makes it all the better.

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About Matt Williams

Matt Williams
Matt Williams is head of content at Partners Andrews Aldridge.

One comment

  1. This is just another nail in the coffin of common decency.

    Disgusting advert needs to be banned straight away and Booking.com need to be banned from advertising on UK TV until they can prove they are responsible enough to do so.

    Matt – you clearly do not have children.

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