Monday, November 9, 2009
When I saw these new spots from Kayak.com over the weekend, I actually thought it was funny that gramps might be losing it. Yeah, he was telling a story that seemed real, until the destination board behind him started up, then it came off like he was back on Normandy. (The other spot features a French motif.)
Few things came to mind. One is that it felt a little odd that they were running this so close to Veteran’s Day.
Second, the son is selfishly more focused on a vacation than hearing about dad’s service, let alone respecting it. If I was mildly offended by anything, it was that. Creative license taken in this case anyway because no dad talks like that to his kid about his time in the service, least not in my experience.
Which leads to discussions I’ve seen already where people seem divided into three camps over it: 1) People like it and aren't offended, 2) People don’t like it and aren’t offended and 3) People aren’t offended, but they don’t think the spot is funny. (Credit to someone from Kayak for coming on YouTube and answering critics though.)
Whether dot com brands should be depending on traditional media to get the word out is another issue. Many post-bubble brands built their business online first without heavy support from TV, radio and print to help them grow. Only now at the end of their first decade or so in business do you see more of them flip that script and go the “traditional” route.
(And here, maybe Kayak wanted to stand out and assign a “voice” to the brand in the face of increased competition on the travel sector, who knows. So, why not turn to TV.)
That sets up another dynamic.
For a few years now, brands living in the online space have started to focus more on providing something of practical value to surfers/users/customers. Forget shiny happy TV—help me online and improve my daily life with sites that put function over form, and I might become a loyal customer in return.
Google. Amazon. Zappos. Even established brands now see value in providing something of extra “value,” even if that value is entertainment: Nike Plus, Domino’s pizza tracker, Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project, etc. These sites move beyond having just a simple campaign because they help(ed) you do something useful.
So when I see Kayak move to TV and run their brand through the traditional ad agency filters of “insight” followed by “clever attempt at execution of same” followed by “memorable tagline,” it feels odd.
Those three ingredients are there in this spot for sure, but the one underlying factor that is the only real benefit for them is that mass media delivers a lot of eyeballs at once. Because of that, I question if the “idea” part of the agency equation works the way it once did for this generation of brands, given this thought:
Anyone who used Kayak.com to this point (including me), only knew it from the online space and how easy it was. My experience with it was straightforward and without clever ad campaign. I would go there, punch in some dates, then get back some options. Done.
TV didn’t have to tell me how to feel about that.
But now, it does. Or is trying to in these gloomy, spots. (Which is another disconnect. While not everything has to match, Progressive Insurance has established a consistent look and feel between their TV and online.)
With the Kayak spots, yes, the flipping tote board mimics Kayak’s search result process, but the typical agency attempt at showing how clever they can be in executing what they think is a relevant insight actually masks the simplicity of the site’s function. The spot makes me work too hard to get their point. This is why Google works. It’s stripped-down interface does one thing: Helps you find whatever. Fast.
Yet, watch, when they ramp up their existing ad efforts even more, you can bet the spots will be more complicated than that real-life function that just works. This is where the disconnect will ultimately happen. Other have said this in different ways but ultimately:
The message of your :30 is likely at odds with my customer experience.
I realize too it’s a double-edged sword, in that, TV can also reshape perceptions. Orbitz may strain credibility with flying Stephen Colbert dude, but those spots made you forget their horrible beginnings and those annoying, endless pop-up banners from hell. (Almost.) Phoenix University too where once annoying banner orgy has now become merely respectable branding campaign.
Still, for all the talk of traditional vs. digital divides, the relevance of mass media like TV in building brands is where it needs to manifest itself, not in the number of Flash devs an agency has.
Posted 2:12 AM