In a radical departure for this column, Video Watch switches channels to the world of TV advertising. And where better to sample the delights of said ads, than the ultimate showcase of TV advertising — the NFL Super Bowl. It’s at half time of the Super Bowl where some of the best, most innovative, most expensive ads of the year are given their debut. No, you won’t find any shouty spruiks for book clearances or half price rugs during the Super Bowl, it’s playtime for the world’s biggest marketing speculators.
With this in mind hotel operators the world over would have been choking on their Budweiser and corn-dogs when HomeAway’s ‘Test Baby’ ad invaded their screens, demanding attention with its big-budget production values, Bond villain sets, and a scene that has the world’s tongues wagging.
But first, what is HomeAway? They’re a secret government agency saving vacations… apparently… run by the Ministry of Detourism. All sounds like a load of old hooey? Sure. But to break all the rules of Video Watch, let’s put our serious faces on for a minute and find out some more about HomeAway:
This internet startup business began five years ago with the aim of bringing together a highly fragmented holiday rentals market, then worth an already-hefty $50b across the US and Europe. We’re talking about holiday homes or investment properties that exist around the world that formerly offered themselves for rent on local networks — you know the type. HomeAway has bought hundreds of these small-time vacation rental outfits and aggregated millions of homes internationally onto the one web platform. And in that time has grown by a staggering 95% year-on-year. Much like eBay or Wotif, bigger is better in this market and HomeAway is the biggest fish in an ever-broadening pond. In fact, HomeAway’s founder and CEO, Brian Sharples, sees no end to the huge growth thanks to families and holiday makers looking for ‘more value’, and I for one wouldn’t like to tell him he’s wrong.
So, back to the Super Bowl advertisement: Where the big international hotel chains might advertise on CNN using one of those voiceover guys with a ludicrously posh ‘please everyone’ accent, reading from a script that sounds like it was agreed on by a UN committee for the Internationally Bland and lingering on vaseline-coated images of Eurasian babes looking mysterious and draped in cheesecloth; the HomeAway advertising has all the hallmarks of a young, savvy, ballsy company on the move, dropping sassy critiques on the hotel establishment like “what’s up with the $12 minibar pistachios?”
Clearly the hotels market has a fight on its hands. And not against one of the thousands of ‘Golden Beach Holiday Rentals’ microsites.
Oh, and what of the ‘test baby’? View the clip and make up your own mind. But how an advertiser can play for laughs a prat-falling baby that squeaky-slips down a perspex wall… well, it’s nothing short of genius. — <CH.>