7 years ago

Oyster.com questions the reality behind Orbitz ad campaign

Elie Seidman, the co-founder and CEO of Oyster.com, thinks the new Orbitz hotel ad campaign, is slick, but divorced from reality.

Here’s a recent YouTube video from the hotel-focused Orbitz ad blitz, which has the tag line, “When you Orbitz, you know:


On July 15, Orbitz Worldwide President and CEO Barney Harford tweeted about the campaign: “No-one likes a know-it-all until they need to book a hotel. Bless you, cannonball. Know what to expect from your vacation. http://ow.ly/2C3FS

A few hours later, Seidman retweeted Harford’s tweet.

Seidman tweeted: “Orbitz ad is good but is divorced from product reality of Orbitz. RT @barneyh: Know what to expect from your vacation http://ow.ly/eC3FS

Seidman claims that Orbitz and the hotels themselves distribute hotel photos and descriptions that can be misleading to customers because they depict images of pristine settings and amenities that may not reflect the actual circumstances.

“The gall of Orbitz’s ad is that it describes the customer problem — not knowing what I’m going to get when I show up at the hotel — and implies that Orbitz solves it,” Seidman says.

Oyster, which offers journalist-written hotel reviews for a limited number of destinations, has been running Oyster Photo Fakeouts, which purport to portray the gap between the images of hotel publicists and more realistic portrayals on Oyster.com.

Oyster put together a series of what it describes as Orbitz photo fakeouts.

“But as the photo fakeouts of Orbitz show, Orbitz is a part of the problem it claims to solve, and self-evidently is not the solution,” Seidman says. “Their ads, while funny, ring hollow and Orbitz and their ad agency,BBDO, need to be taken to task for this.”

So, take a look at some of Seidman’s Orbitz fakeouts — and judge for yourself.

Here’s a poolside photo from Orbitz.com at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas:


Here’s the actual scene that a visitor might experience at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, according to the Oyster photo below:


Orbitz, however, does indeed have a photo in its Hard Rock photo slideshow, which Seidman didn’t submit, depicting a crowded pool. Here it is below:


The following is an Orbitz photo of the beach at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa in Oahu:


And, the following is Oyster’s depiction of the same beach — albeit at a different time with cranes in the background — at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa in Oahu:


Here’s another example of what Oyster considers an Orbitz fakeout. This is is an Orbitz photo of the Hyatt Regency Washington:


And, here’s the Oyster photo showing the Hyatt Regency Washington’s front entrance:


Here’s another tranquil pool setting from Orbitz. This one is at Sofitel in Los Angeles:


Meanwhile, the Oyster image of the pool at Sofitel in Los Angeles makes sure to get Macy’s into the photo:


Orbitz spokesman Brian Hoyt didn’t comment directly about Oyster’s compilation of alleged Orbitz photo fakeouts, but said:

“No one in the industry offers the comprehensive content, resources and service that makes up the hotel assurance we provide consumers who book a hotel on Orbitz. No one has total-price hotel display like Orbitz. Orbitz has Hotel Price Assurance, where if another customer books a hotel room for less on our site, a check is in the mail.”

“Then add on features like hotel reviews (from customers we verify stayed at the property), features like Google Street View and the other hotel information resources,” Hoyt says. “Add to that our history of innovation in other parts of our business like customer care and simply put: We’re happy to go head to head with any travel site. So bring it.”

What do you think?

Should online travel agencies, such as Orbitz, begin to publish more realistic photos?

That would empower consumers, but probably wouldn’t make hotel partners very happy.

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Dennis Schaal

About the Writer :: Dennis Schaal

Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.



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  2. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    James: I agree with much of what you say, and it points to another problem. Many of the hotel photos the online travel agencies — and perhaps hotel websites — use are several years old.

    The property can really change in several years.

    Maybe Google Street View is part of an answer. At least you can see what is going on at the hotel at that moment.

  3. James Penman

    What’s a realistic photo? Capture an image when the sun’s been out for a couple of weeks and the light’s clean and it’ll look the polar opposite of an image taken on a cloudy day when the colours are flat. Put another way, pitch up in a destination with a point and shoot camera on a sunny day and then come back a week later on a cloudy day and the photos will be dramatically different. I can very much see how the ‘nice’ Oahu image can be as real as the ‘realistic’ one. Depends on the conditions. If you live in a country where the seasons are marked like the UK then this is a constant problem. Even the most stunning places look grim when the light’s bad. ‘Real’ photos don’t exist.

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    […] Oyster.com questions the reality behind Orbitz ad campaign (Tnooz) […]

  5. Peter

    Yeah, not really proving the point with these photos. The Hard Rock Hotel one is good, but that’s let down by the fact that Orbitz has a similar one itself. Point lost there.

    And considering Orbitz also has Streetview images, this means that they are also allowing some fairly unflattering images of the hotels to be posted. The Streetview camera is not a PR person’s dream. I’d argue that Streetview presents more reality than any of these Oyster examples, because it also includes an easy way to check out the surrounding area. I’ve decided against staying at certain hotels because of Streetview. And I’ve decided in favour of places because of it as well.

    Now, if only Google could install live webcams on every street corner and ideally in every hotel lobby and bathroom. Then we would get a real view of what these places are like 🙂

    “Real” photos are good – don’t get me wrong. Real videos even better. But using exterior photos for examples is not a good argument when most sites now have that thanks to Google.

  6. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Graham: Actually Oyster does offer hotel rooms now. http://bit.ly/ce2UCp

    • Graham

      I stand corrected? That’d be super hard, but makes their comments about Orbitz make even more sense.

  7. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Sam: Oyster sent me a few more examples, and I didn’t publish them all. I think the point stands that a couple of models meandering along seeming beach paradise, doesn’t really equip the traveler to know what to expect at the hotel.

    In case you are interested, here are some more Oyster Photo Fakeouts. http://bit.ly/5TkSKz

    • Graham

      I wouldn’t call those people models… I think it was a sunny day when there was no construction. MAYBE the contrast was up’d a bit, but I do that with my own travel pictures on Facebook 🙂

      Any hotel marketer that wants to take pictures of their hotel when it’s at its WORSTin an effort to be totally transparent would be insane (and jobless).

      I think they’re both right, though. Oyster does not sell hotels, if they did they would take flattering pictures. They sell reviews of hotels with the angle that they are totally transparent and unbiased. Orbitz, on the other hand, DO sell hotels… totally different perspectives and business goals going on here.

  8. Sam Daams

    If those comparisons are the best examples Oyster can come up with of Orbitz ‘faking’ photos, then I’ll go out on a limb and say they have bigger problems they need to worry about. Here I was expecting hotels photoshopping away garbage disposals at their entrance, or half a city worth of highrise from the view. Instead I get hotels trying to put their best foot forward by taking photos at a flattering angle?!

  9. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Patrick: You must be visiting the wrong hotels:)

    Hey, realistic hotel photos are the way to go. For large sites like Orbitz, that would entail a huge expense and would ruffle a lot of feathers among hoteliers, but if Orbitz really wanted to become the best consumer website for hotels, then that is probably what they need to do.

  10. Patrick Goff

    Hoteldesigns visits every hotel in its Reviews and Minviews and takes its own photographs to show the reality of the rooms. We also have a library where there are over 16,000 interior images of 200+ hotels in 27 countries, on 4 continents. All because we like milk tray? – no all because we don’t trust hotel pr shots.

    At least they seem to have stopped putting the image of the blonde in the terry towel robe on the bed. Never had one in a room I’ve booked….

  11. Tweets that mention Oyster.com questions the reality behind Orbitz ad campaign (Tnooz) #hotels -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dennis Schaal, elie seidman, Jennifer Garfinkel, Oyster.com, Oyster.com and others. Oyster.com said: Orbitz CEO tells Oyster to "bring it." http://bit.ly/amzdGY […]

  12. Pearls of Wisdom

    Wow. It really seams like Orbitz massive advertising budgets can’t overcome serious flaws in their product offerings. Perhaps instead of funneling that money to advertising in order to trick consumers into thinking they have reliable and accurate content, they should actually create reliable and accurate content.

    Orbitz – 0

    Oyster – 1


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