Is Kayak’s ‘Stairlift’ Commercial Bringing You Down?

Critics cry elder abuse but other viewers think it's great

Some folks are finding Barton F. Graf 9000's latest advertising excursion for travel site a less than uplifting experience.

In the 30-second spot, a middle-aged man commandeers his elderly mother's stairlift for a ride as he pecks away at his laptop, searching for a good hotel. He explains that he can't waste a second doing anything else, including walking up the stairs. Meanwhile, his mother grasps the bannister, gasping for air, as Sonny Boy glides past, bragging about the great deal he's just found.

"Forcing an elderly woman to struggle up stairs while her son uses her electric stairlift. Do you think this is funny? It's not. It's mean and juvenile," says one viewer on the company's Facebook page. A YouTuber on the opposite side of the argument writes, "For those that are offended: lighten up. It's funny precisely because it is insensitive." (In an odd twist, some commenters have actually praised the spot for raising stairlift awareness.)

Stirring controversy never gets old for Kayak, whose 2012 brain surgery commercial was banned in the U.K. over perceived insensitivity toward brain surgery patients. Clearly, ads like "Stairlift" and "Brain Surgeon" are designed to be somewhat over the top and elevate Kayak's buzz. Are they mean-spirited or offensive? That's a gray area.

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.