Expedia Cancels Bad Trips

LOS ANGELES Deutsch/LA’s latest television spot for the online travel agent Expedia.com broke last night on network and national cable.

The 30-second “Surf Lessons” continues the agency’s “flash-forward” paranoid fantasy campaign in which people imagine vacation doomsday scenarios as they book their plans.

“The campaign is based on the idea that Expedia offers so many options and choices for consumers, they can’t make a bad decision,” said Chris Ribeiro, senior vice president and associate creative director at Deutsch/LA, Marina del Rey, Calif. “Strategically, this category is so new, it is important to a consistent tone of voice. A lot of online travel and Internet companies have made the mistake of being inconsistent in their branding.”

The spot shows a husband booking a Hawaiian vacation online and exploring activities like surfing lessons. “I’ve always wanted to try that!” says his wife, triggering the husband to imagine an unctuous surfing instructor seducing her while he flounders on a board. He suggests horseback riding instead. A voiceover says, “Activities: Another way Expedia helps you create the trip that’s right for you.” The spot ends with the tag of a single voice declaring “Expedia” and a barbershop quartet adding the “dot com.”

Jason Elm, senior copywriter, and Mick Kuisel, senior art director, were also on the creative team. Alan White of @radicalmedia, Los Angeles, directed.

“Using a format can be a two-edged sword,” said Ribeiro. “You build a box and get comfortable in it, but you don’t want to be trapped in it. The reason that this formula works is, let’s face it, travel is an emotionally and financially high-stakes decision for people. If you buy the wrong stereo speakers, you can take them back. But if your one week with your wife and family turns into a terrible vacation, it can ruin your year.”

A company representative said Expedia leads the online travel category in both billings and media metrics, and is the fourth-largest domestic travel agency overall, trailing American Express, Carlson Wagonlit and Navigant Travel.

Last year Expedia spent about $65 million on advertising and more than $60 million through August 2003, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.