ASTA Persuades Marriott to Pull YouTube Ad
PHOTO: Comedian Grace Helbig (center) in one of Marriott's "It Pays to Book Direct" commercials. (courtesy Marrott International)
ASTA has persuaded Marriott to pull one of the YouTube ads that entices consumers to book direct through the hotel chain. The change was announced Monday at the ASTA Global Convention in Washington.
“They listened to our concerns and they’ve already pulled one of the offensive ads that our members were really hot under the collar about,” said Jennifer Michels, vice president of communications at ASTA. “This is a broader issue. Every time we see ‘book direct’ we remind these companies that we’re good partners of theirs.”
The #itpaystobookdirect campaign, which followed the company’s announcement last year that it would offer free Wi-Fi to Marriott Rewards members who booked direct, features a series of videos communicating the benefits of booking direct.
The campaign offers a “best rate guarantee” to all travelers if they book on Marriott.com, whether they are Marriott Rewards members or not. If travelers find a better rate elsewhere, Marriott is promising it will match it and give travelers an additional 25 percent discount.
The ads feature Internet comedian sensation Grace Helbig. The specific ad that was pulled is titled "Scenic Route" and features Helbig helping a lost couple find a more direct route despite a gas attendant urging the couple to take the scenic route. Many in the travel community saw that as a poorly veiled swipe at travel agents.
Responding to agent outcry over the campaign, Marriott later issued a statement designed to clarify its position.
“We highly value our relationship with travel agents and recognize the service they offer to customers,” the statement said. “The current digital marketing campaign is simply another common practice effort to create awareness of our existing site to inform customers who choose to make their own reservations.
The conflict resolution between ASTA and Marriott is scheduled to be discussed during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
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