Hotel? Trivago: The Brilliant Rise of an Unlikely Pitchman

At first, it was just the missing belt. Then, I noticed the shirt that had two too many buttons undone. Each time I saw the commercial, I become more fascinated. His hair. The wrinkled shirt. His deep blue eyes. His scruff. Then I found myself forgoing the fast forward on my DVR just for the chance to watch him again. Wait, what was he even selling? What was his pitch again? “Hotel? Trivago.”

He’s fondly referred to by fans, critics and the like as Trivago Guy. He has his own hashtag (#TrivagoGuy) and he’s the subject of a brilliant social effort by the brand‘s agency to make him over (deadline is Aug. 24 to submit your entry). It just keeps getting better. This is truly a phenomenon.

What’s happening to Trivago is unprecedented. Trivago is in a tough category with established competition: Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, Hotwire and a few others. Many of these brands have recognized faces, like Captain Obvious, The Negotiator (William Shatner) and the Travel Gnome. Some have super catchy jingles — “HotWireeeeee.com.” But Trivago Guy stands out among that crowd of traditional consumer TV advertising tactics — he’s as real as the guy sitting two rows in front of me in coach. Someone who travels 35 weeks out of the year and looks like he’s had a tough week and just wants a clean hotel and a warm meal. And maybe a shot of Jameson. Hell, I might even have that shot with him at the hotel lobby bar. Trivago, you have my attention.

At EMA, every day we talk with our clients about the importance of branding and the face of the brand. We conduct research to understand what our clients’ customers look like, where they consume their media, what their behaviors are, if they have families, what their priorities and motivations are, what prevents them from completing a sale, where they live, how old they are, etc. Both the brand’s message and look need to align with its customers, because that’s what is proven to work. We package that up into personas and we tap our experts to find out what type of advertising, creative and placements will work. Then we bring it to life. Monitor, measure and optimize, in a nutshell (although it’s not quite this simple).

But what Trivago has done is brilliant — they didn’t polish the look. They put a regular old Joe, with a slight aura of sex appeal and without a belt, behind their relatively young brand.

It was a risky move. Supposedly, it was intentional. Maybe we learn a lesson from this and perhaps gain a different perspective on the nontraditional. But then again, maybe it’s a sign that we should stick to what we know. This could have been really bad.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal’s CMO Today blog reported that, “according to YouGov BrandIndex, which tracks consumer perception through online polls, Trivago has now reached ad awareness parity with Priceline. Trivago has pushed past Travelocity, TripAdvisor, Orbitz, and even its parent Expedia, in terms of ad awareness.”

On Aug. 20, YouGov reported that 20% of domestic leisure fliers recall seeing an ad for Trivago in the past two weeks. Those levels of awareness in such a short amount of time are remarkable.

But as WSJ suggests, awareness doesn’t exactly equate to revenue. Yet. I’m going to keep my eye on Trivago Guy. And I hope his makeover doesn’t alter his appearance too much, because I think it’s working just fine. Ride this wave, Trivago Guy.

And as a bonus — for a good laugh, here’s a compilation of the funniest #TrivagoGuy comments I’ve read:

  • It may be just me, but the Trivago guy looks like he’s been on a three-day non-stop party binge, or at least been sitting at a bar with a glass of whiskey two weeks after his wife left him.
  • He looks like 30 miles of bad road.
  • Honestly, if those Geico “Cavemen” commercials can be a TV show then I’m looking forward to “The Young Trivago Guy Chronicles” #trivagoGuy
  • #trivagoguy makes me feel like he’s going 2 B WAITING in the room I book. & then ask 2 borrow exactly $2,300 #50shadesoftrivago
  • #trivagoGuy clothes makes me think that it might smell like a smoky 1950 trailer parked somewhere in southern states in the USA.
  • The #TrivagoGuy is that single dad, who likes it cheap and easy. His friend prob eats too many chocolate bars
  • He hasn’t had any nutrition or sleep in a while.
  • Sometimes I wonder what the #trivagoGuy looks like after a night of hard partying.

By Kelly Russell, Account Supervisor