Commentary

Let's Send The Trivago Guy Packing

Did you ever consider how much viewers, now stuck observing the final stretch (and stench) of this mightily dispiriting election on TV, might appreciate the occasional smile that a clever and surprising commercial could bring?

That would be a rock-solid “no” for Trivago, the German-based online hotel search site that has broken through to the American market with simple TV ads featuring a memorable, if slightly creepy, spokes-dude, The Trivago Guy.

Speaking directly to the camera, the guy usually opens with a “Did you ever?” question and then shows that he can actually talk and swipe at the same time.

In a heavy media spend over the past couple of years, the spokes-dude, played by American actor Tim Williams (who stars on a German soap opera as an aging rocker), has become something of an Internet heartthrob.

Indeed, Trivago Guy’s scruffy, slightly disheveled presence and silver-haired bad-boy vibe attracted so much attention (both from women and men) that the question of why he wasn’t wearing a belt with his jeans in the first spot actually trended on Twitter.

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So that’s why this recent one, “Kicked Out” is so offensive and unfathomable to me.  Perhaps the strategy was “At a time when the gender wars have been painfully reawakened by this election, how do we alienate our core audience and suggest that our hotels are low-rent fleabags for cheaters, while simultaneously aligning ourselves on the side of taunting, hostile, possibly violent, male creeps?”

Oh, I can see the marketing men responding, “But it’s light and funny!  And the woman was the strong one and threw him out! Can’t you women take a joke?”

Funny, but it took the latest lows of this election for women to figure out that we’re not just fed up with the harassing language and behavior itself, but with the resigned, hugely uncomfortable feeling that it engenders: the attitude that this is just the way things are, and we’d better get used to it.

No more. We are seeing with fresh eyes!

So let’s take another look at the spot.

In a production that has the quality of a low–cost Web series (or maybe porn?), we see the man with a misbuttoned shirt (a nod to the belt controversy?) wearing his boxer shorts, carrying an annoying, hot-dog-shaped, hastily packed bag.  “Has your girlfriend ever kicked you out of your house, just because she checked your browser history?” he shouts.  Then he tells us that fortunately, with Trivago, you can always find a hotel nearby. The kicker that he screams out of frame: “with WiFi!”

Notice that he says “your house.” Meaning domination. Meaning, “the nerve of the old ball-and-chain to have to ride me this closely for doing the natural stuff that men do!”

Wink, wink, this is for you, imaginary locker-room boys and/or Newt Gingrich!   

Why not turn men against women, and put females in the position of being shrews and harpies, screaming and forcing their providers out on the street without their pants?

Most people would naturally think that what the “girlfriend” found on the man’s browser was porn.

A porn habit is a hugely complicated issue, and most couples figure out how to deal with it to their mutual satisfaction. It should not be diminished in a leering commercial for hotels.  

There are enough concerns with some of the outgrowths of Internet porn—like its effects on teens and tweens—that over the summer, Donald Trump actually agreed to "give serious consideration to appointing a Presidential Commission to examine the harmful public health impact of Internet pornography on youth, families and the American culture and the prevention of the sexual exploitation of children in the digital age."

That’s serious stuff. But while we’re trivializing it as a joke, even worse, this whole attitude feels very 1995, like  the guy fired up the old Commodore and found some desperate chick in a chat room.

Yes, she could have found him on dating sites, but even the women attracted to this type of guy knows that he’s not the type to put that much “wooing” work into his Internet visits.

If anything good has come from this pitiless political season, it’s that increasingly, there is no room for bully boys and locker-room talk. It’s out in the open. And over. And done.

This commercial is stupid, disrespectful, and dated—and, if nothing else, terrible for business.

And the nature of it is such, that if “girlfriend” is discerning enough, maybe the sickening, objectionable, deal-breaker of a thing that she found on his browser was, actually, um, this spot. Who could blame her?

16 comments about "Let's Send The Trivago Guy Packing".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, October 28, 2016 at 3:17 p.m.

    Barbara, are you having a bad hair day and a lot of stress in your life? Sounds to me you like you need a vacation to a place on a beach to tan. Better yet, find a spring vacation with a bunch of great looking guys in speedos!  Chill out girl!

  2. Lisbeth Kramer from Identities, October 28, 2016 at 3:25 p.m.

    OMG , Barbar Lippert , from time I met you, loved what you had to say and still do..and this I cannot believe..I was wondering what industry thoughts might arise regarding this campaign; how you have informed me on this one! LOL..there's more to say, you have said it all and so brilliantly!!! and in these times, how potent it is..........and oh how DATED INDEED!!!

  3. Peggy Moore from freelance replied, October 28, 2016 at 4:39 p.m.

    Craig, you sound like the marketing guys that Barbara mentions in the article. Cool!

    "..Oh, I can see the marketing men responding, “But it’s light and funny! And the woman was the strong one and threw him out! Can’t you women take a joke?”

    Not.

    Oy.

  4. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC, October 28, 2016 at 4:52 p.m.

    Barbara, I'm usually right there with you, but not this time. I think you've overthought this silly but harmless creative execution to the point of self-parody. The sport gets the strategic brief across - the easy way to find an available hotel room, nearby and right now - and it's kind of funny. Not laugh out loud funny, but humorous and reasonably memorable. The dramatic, ominous messages you read into the execution just take your criticism into the twilight zone.

  5. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, October 28, 2016 at 4:52 p.m.

    Thanks, Peggy. That is amazing, isn't it? Wish I had included that "bad hair day" in the column. It's even more patronizing! 

  6. Peggy Moore from freelance, October 28, 2016 at 5:21 p.m.

    It seems to be funny to guys , so far.
    I'd say you made your point.

    Shall we go to the tanning salon?

  7. michele belier from self employed, October 28, 2016 at 7:41 p.m.

    Barbara, thanks for this column. My immediate response when I first saw the spot was, "So you don't care if you offend, and make a joke of, women viewers (i.e., potential customers)?"  You've articulated all of the reasons I feel such extreme repugnance when I see it.

  8. Marla Goldstein from Around The Bend Media replied, October 28, 2016 at 11:03 p.m.

    There are a myriad of ways to get across a message of needing to find a hotel room nearby with little to no notice.

    Using Smarmy Dishelveled Guy doesn't have to be one of them. And it's incredibly sexist, to boot.

  9. Don Perman from self, October 29, 2016 at 9:47 a.m.

    Funny and biting as always.  It's a bit of a strange ad, certainly. I'm not even sure this apparent target audience bothers with Trivago Guy's warnings, much less advice.  But now I'll watch the ads more closely. Thanks again.

  10. Christina Ricucci from Millenia 3 Communications, October 29, 2016 at 6:27 p.m.

    Wow, I'm really on an island here! Guess I'm too old to appreciate all the fussing from the incensed "I am woman, hear me roar" generation. I just thought it was another silly TV spot. My immediate thought upon reading your article, Barbara, and comments from the women here, was "THAT'S what you got from this spot?" I see retirement racing toward me.

  11. Deborah Brancheau from Goozleology, October 31, 2016 at 1:13 p.m.

    Nailed it, Barbara! I hated this spokesman from the first commercial. Not the actor but the whole aura of the character. That character is creepy as hell!

    And seriously, why would you want to imply that your clients/hotels are subpar to a Motel 6 where men walk through the lobby in there boxers?

    Worst ad ever.

  12. Erik Sass from none, October 31, 2016 at 7:54 p.m.

    Imagining that he was kicked out for trying to join ISIS on Twitter makes it a little funnier. But just a little.

  13. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, October 31, 2016 at 8:11 p.m.

    that's a good one, Eric! I was also thinking possibly that she found out he's in a militia. 

  14. Erik Sass from none replied, October 31, 2016 at 8:24 p.m.

    Ha! It gives the "with wi-fi!" a whole new feel.

  15. susannah jane from dear bullwinkle replied, March 6, 2017 at 3:12 a.m.

    Craig McDaniel: Dude, your schtick is tired, and nobody cares. You're over. Bai.

  16. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, March 6, 2017 at 5:06 p.m.


    This is a very late reply, but I saw the column headline in today's newsletter email, and since that "Trivago guy" is still gracing (?) our TV, I thought I'd add my two cents.

    For reasons I can't explain, that guy is extremely obnoxious to me. The original ad mentioned in the column was bad enough, but the guy himself is just, ... creepy, in every one of their ads.  

    I can only assume that he's the husband/boyfriend'blackmailer of someone at Trivago or their agency, since he has zero charm, warmth, or any other endearing trait that any human being I know would recognize and respond to positively.

    Yes, he did achieve the goal of putting the name "Trivago" in my head, but only in the sense that I'll avoid anything associated with them due entirely to their horrible, and odd,  taste in spokespersons. 

    And finally, did someone actually write "chill out, girl"?  My only response: "Invest in a calendar, ... dude."

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