Pity the poor Travelocity Roaming Gnome. It seems just like the character Rodney Dangerfield played, the gnome too can't get "no respect."
Now the downtrodden gnome is facing a new challenge. He's being identified as the culprit in misleading Travelocity humorous ads suggesting that its "Top Secret hotels" are far easier to book than rival Priceline's "Name Your Own Price" service.
In one print ad in the series, the gnome is seen roasting over a spit with the copy saying, "Tired of getting burned when bidding on a hotel room? ... Then try Travelocity's NEW Top Secret Hotels. The ad goes on to say that Travelocity's Top Secret Hotel offers "no bidding; no waiting, no stress" ... making Travelocity "The best place for hotel deals. A TV ad features the gnome soaking in a bathtub using Travelocity vs. swimming in a tank of piranhas when going to a competitor.
The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus today agreed with Priceline that some of the claims go too far in exaggerating differences between the two services and suggested Travelocity alter them.
The National Advertising Division said that while humor is fine in ads, Travelocity doesn't have enough evidence to suggest that consumers feel booking a hotel room using Top Secret Hotels is a relaxing experience, while bidding on hotels (using Priceline's Name Your Own Price service) is a terrifying and painful experience, riddled with obstacles.
"Humor can be an effective and creative means for an advertiser to highlight its product attributes and performance capabilities, but it does not relieve an advertiser of its obligations to support implied performance messages reasonably implied from humorous depictions," said the decision from the ad industry's self-regulatory body.
It called the evidence Travelocity offered to back up its claims "nothing more than anecdotal" and it suggested Travelocity alter the claim.
While finding in favor of Priceline, the National Advertising Division said Travelocity's claims in the ads that bidding can be a hassle and that it's web site allows travelers to book without waiting to find out if bids are accepted are fair claims.
In a statement to the group, Travelocity said it was gratified it could still call Priceline's Name Your Own Price bidding a hassle and that it can still say its Top Secret Hotel service requires no bidding, impose no stress and no waiting.
It said it was disappointed in the other part of the decision, but would take the decision into account in future ads.
"Travelocity does not dispute the holding that using 'Name Your Own Price' is not as excruciatingly awful as being eaten by piranhas, being the target of a knife thrower or being burned alive on a spit," the company said it its statement. "Despite the fact that Travelocity believes consumers recognize such claims as humorous and extreme exaggerations that are not to be taken literally, Travelocity will abide [with the findings]."
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