Hotels.com’s Silent Ads Poke Fun at Facebook’s Rules

Hotels.com has launched a Facebook ad playfully catering to the default silence in users’ news feeds.

In “The Piano,” Captain Obvious, the hotel aggregator’s mascot, sits playing the piano while subtitles that flash across the screen read, “Ads autoplay silently on Facebook, which is good for you because I don’t know how to play the piano.” If users turn the sound on, they hear that Captain Obvious is just indiscriminately hitting keys. The subtitles go on to say that while the captain doesn’t know how to play, he does, however, know that users can get 10 percent off their first stay when they download the Hotels.com app.

Hotels.com hopes the sly humor of the ad will make users enable the video rather than scrolling past. “Brands will always be looking for ways to innovate and break through with Facebook. Our campaign represents our own attempt to maximize impact while playing by the rules of the platform,” says Mike Wolfe, senior director of brand marketing for Hotels.com. “Our objective with our silent ad campaign was to increase breakthrough, and ultimately engagement with our audience.”

Captain Obvious has stuff to say even if you can’t hear him. Enter code MOBNEW10 to save 10% with the Hotels.com app.

Posted by Hotels.com on Monday, June 1, 2015

The gamble on silence seems to have paid off. Since Monday, the video, which was executed by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, has been viewed more than 192,000 times. “The Piano” is Hotels.com’s second silent Facebook ad. The first, which featured an American Sign Language translator in addition to the subtitles, saw five percent higher engagement than the brand’s online videos typically do, according to Wolfe.

“A unique aspect we added to ‘The Interpreter’ was the hidden message shared through sign language,” he adds. “We wanted to reward people who were paying attention and those that could understand the signed message.”

The interpreter’s message is different than Captain Obvious’ words. Consumers who catch that and say so in the comments enter to win a gift card.

Captain Obvious has stuff to say even if you can’t hear him.Enter code MOBNEW10 to save 10% with the Hotels.com app. Legal bits: http://bit.ly/1F6VBgA

Posted by Hotels.com on Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The campaign is reminiscent of Newcastle Brown Ale’s tongue-in-cheek attempt to circumvent the high price of a Super Bowl commercial by entering Doritos’ annual ad contest. Like the beer company, Hotels.com acknowledges the rules while playfully creating ads to get around them.

Dave Evans, vice president of social strategy at customer relationship management solution Lithium, commends the brand for its cleverness. He thinks by playing to the silence, Hotels.com will ultimately get more views, adding that unexpected, noisy ads are disruptive and annoying.

“This ad is proof that you can be creative within the box, so to speak,” Evans says. “[Facebook] members have a preference for a less obtrusive experience. Rather than finding some trick that says, ‘Even though [the ad is] supposed to be on silent, we’re going to vibrate the phone instead or do something else that’s obnoxious,’ this plays within the rules. It actually gets me to notice what I’m supposed to notice, which is the underlying message.”

Evans adds that while users don’t need sound to understand what Hotels.com is saying, turning the ad on definitely makes it even funnier.

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