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As the two-year mark since the world's first COVID-19-related travel bans draws nearer, some holiday shoppers may be aching to travel freely again. Some may even wish to transport themselves to the scenic landscapes often depicted on TV screens seen in catalogs. It was this observation that ignited Expedia Group's newest marketing campaign, centered around a 15-second video depicting a tranquil beach on a TV screen. The camera zooms in and a voiceover asks, "This Black Friday do you want a TV, or do you want the place on the TV?"
The hero spot and broader campaign, aptly named "Black Friday," aim to tease out the feelings of adventure, discovery and rejuvenation most consumers have missed since travel largely screeched to a halt in 2020. Developed with creative agency Anomaly, the multimedia campaign launched this week in the U.S. and will run through Cyber Monday (Nov. 29).
While Black Friday is typically geared toward retailers and a weekend of mega-sales, Expedia Group is hoping to capture some of that spending demand with its own effort that ties together its three flagship brands — Expedia, Vrbo and Hotels.com — for the first time, advocating getaways over gadgets.
"The insight comes from last year's consumer behavior, where many have filled their homes with unnecessary stuff to fill in for the moments they've been missing," said Hector Muelas, Expedia Group's senior vice president of global creative. "With the world slowly opening up again, we wanted to remind consumers that travel experiences are more transformative and meaningful than a TV set, for example."
'Stuff versus experiences'
The hero spot will appear on digital video and TV, while digital out-of-home (DOOH) screens in malls are set to reach shoppers as they browse for gifts, subtly urging them to choose travel over trinkets. Targeted pre-roll, display and social ads sporting the same message will "hijack" holiday shopping searches online, appearing before and alongside popular device reviews, according to Whitney Ruef, creative director at Anomaly.
"We tried to make it as contextual as possible, with digital out-of-home in malls and YouTube pre-rolls. When people search for things like 'the best new flat screen TV' or 'the best new camera' or 'the best new tablet,' and then click on one of those review videos, we serve the ad up before they go into that video," Ruef said.
Together, the work is part of a promotion for Expedia Group's Black Friday sale that offers 30% off on hotels. TV spots and a homepage takeover on The Washington Post will drive viewers to the Expedia brand website, while Vrbo and Hotels.com also appear in OOH and digital ads.
Expedia Group is eyeing all consumers who participate in Black Friday, but particularly those who are considering big ticket tech items this year, per Ruef.
"This 'stuff versus experiences' felt like a really interesting place to be playing right now, especially with the past couple years we've had of sitting in our houses and just accumulating stuff," Ruef said. "The world is opening back up a bit — and Black Friday is so much about stuff — but maybe we don't need that this year. Maybe we could do something else with that money. We could take an amazing trip to see friends or to just escape for a while, which I think we all kind of need."
Jumping on demand
"Black Friday" is one of the first projects between Expedia Group and Anomaly and arrives as the parent company's three flagship brands capitalize on renewed demand for travel. Searches on Expedia and Hotels.com spiked following the announcement that vaccinated foreign travelers could enter the U.S. starting Nov. 8. Vrbo reported that vacation homes for December started booking up in July.
The sister brands joined forces earlier this month to release a gift guide of experiences segmented by comparable prices of popular gadgets, such as a two-night Vrbo stay in Naples, Italy, for the price of a $300 smart watch or a Texas treehouse rental for the price of fine jewelry.
"It's the first time our brands have come together around a moment in time like Black Friday and Cyber Monday to tell a bigger travel story. We're leaning into the experiences and feeling of discovery and escape we've all missed and that we can offer to travelers across our brands," Muelas said.
The "Black Friday" campaign also arrives on the heels of Expedia brand's fresh look. The online travel agency in April introduced a new website, updated product features and a substantial marketing campaign starring actor Rashida Jones. The update focused on design and the user experience, hoping to help the brand differentiate itself from a bevy of competitors.
The travel group's new experience-driven message sidesteps supply chain disruptions, which are squeezing retailers and brands as the hectic gift-buying season ramps up. At the same time, flight cancellations due to staffing challenges have garnered significant press coverage this fall, all while some consumers remain hesitant to travel due to COVID-19 uncertainties.
"We wanted to make sure with this campaign that we weren't preaching to anyone too much or being too forceful," Ruef said. "The space we felt comfortable playing [in] was posing the question to people rather than saying, 'OK, guys, it's time to get back out there. It's time to travel' because for some people, that's not a possibility right now."