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The 5 Best Travel Commercial Pitchmen

The $2.3 trillion global travel and tourism industry is brutally competitive. What for you is a relaxing vacation – a literal day at the beach – is for the horde of rival travel sites, airlines and hotels a fierce struggle for your business. Travel companies can compete by lowering their prices, or improving their service. Of course, they can also use another strategy, one that’s devastatingly effective, if less obviously beneficial to travelers: advertising.

We’ll admit that, in a perfect world, airlines would spend their resources making the experience of flying economy less awful, and not, say, paying Matt Damon to narrate the last five seconds of a commercial about how great it is to fly first class. Alas, we live in an imperfect world, a world of shrinking legroom and $20 sandwiches from hotel room service. We’re realists here at Rocketrip, the type of people who believe that the only way business travelers will spend less on their trips is if they’re given a compelling reason.

Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize life’s simple pleasures: a cool spring breeze, the sound of children playing, the feeling you get when you help a company save 30% on its T&E expenditure. This is the stuff of happiness.

In that spirit of appreciation, we’ve listed five of our favorite travel pitchmen. Each commercial featuring these lovable corporate shills are 30 second bundles of joy. Despite the occasional ordeals of life on the road – the three hour layovers and $200 change fees, the lumpy hotel mattress and the stubbornly odorous rental car – travel can be pretty great, and these commercials remind us why.

5. William Shatner

William Shatner is the Michael Jordan of ironically self-referential travel search-engine advertisements. Simply put, he changed the game with his “Priceline Negotiator” spots. And like Jordan, Shatner probably stuck around longer than he should have: by 2012 his Priceline commercials were less concerned with how to find a cheap hotel than they were developing an increasingly labyrinthine fictional universe in which Shatner died, was resurrected, and joined forces with his daughter, only it wasn’t really Shatner’s daughter, just an actress who played his daughter in commercials when she wasn’t playing a different character in “The Big Bang Theory,” a television show that frequently references “Star Trek,” a television show that Shatner acted in.

Despite/because of everything in that previous paragraph, these Priceline commercials were wildly successful.

4. The JetBlue Pigeon

Anyone who read George Orwell in school knows that one of the most effective ways to express a complex or difficult idea is to filter it through the mouth of a talking animal. Whether it’s an allegory about the dangers of Stalinism in which the main characters are all pigs and horses, or a commercial in which a pigeon talks about the erosion of airline quality and makes puns about being a frequent flyer, we know a masterpiece when we see one.

3. The Wyndham Wizard

Fans of “Game of Thrones” will appreciate actor Kristofer Hivju’s appearance in these Wyndham Hotel spots. Fans of three-wheel motorcycles, cheesy special effects, brightly colored suits, and pancakes will also find a lot to like.

2. Captain Obvious

At the risk of stating the obvious, these commercials are really clever.

1. The Trivago Guy

Travel metasearch engines like Kayak, TripAdvisor, Hipmunk all use the same flight and hotel pricing data, so how’s a new entrant into this crowded industry supposed to distinguish itself from the competition?

Trivago, a German travel metasearch site, faced this very problem in 2009 as it launched in the U.S. It found an answer in Tim Williams. Williams is, in no particular order:

  • A native of Houston, Texas.
  • A rock musician whose latest EP is called Temporary Man.
  • An actor who plays a rock musician in a German soap-opera called Guten Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten.
  • A minor internet sensation, whose Trivago commercials have fascinated, bemused, and enraged writers at Rolling Stone, Elle, Slate and many other sites.

As the Trivago Guy, Williams is essentially a mystery. A slightly dishevelled, mellifluously voiced mystery, who thoroughly explains the intricacies of the Trivago platform while still leaving a few questions tantalizingly unanswered. Questions such as, “why is this man not wearing a belt?” and “is this commercial for real?”

Trivago Guy is not just the person who gets you a great deal on a hotel, he’s the person you meet at the hotel bar at 2:00 AM. He’s strangely familiar. He’s dangerous. He’s irresistible.

Have a favorite travel commercial? Let us know by tweeting to @rocketrip.

Featured image by Flickr user Bob Bekian with some modification

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