Oyster’s “Photo Fakeouts” – A Creative Way to Sell Travel

airbrushed resortTypical hotel booking and review sites like Expedia and Hotels.com often attach idyllic photos to their hotel descriptions and reviews. These sites promise the best hotels for the best prices – but travel booking underdog site Oyster (as in, “The World is Your Oyster”) believes differently.

Oyster Gets Real – No Pictures Necessary

Oyster has a creative marketing approach, which uses a brilliant combination of humor and cynicism to persuasively reveal their truth about conventional travel booking sites and other hotel advertisements. In 2011, they ran an ad series that was all words – no photos. With white text on a plain – but bright – orange background, one phrase would flash at a time, as with cue cards: “You are not taking / a fake vacation / so why are you / looking at fake pictures / and reading fake reviews?” Or, similarly, “You / can’t return / a bad / vacation.”

The point here is that other review and booking sites are about efficiency, not quality. Unlike TripAdvisor, a review site owned by Expedia, Oyster employs professional reviewers who inconspicuously visit hotels around the world and post their own photos and reviews after their trips. This is because it’s becoming more and more abundantly clear that websites that amass product, service, and business reviews often also come along with skewed reviewers – with companies that find people to post positive reviews.

Oyster’s Photo Fakeouts

A popular feature of the Oyster site is its Photo Fakeouts segment. Everyone loves stark visuals like these, where they post a beach or hotel photo from advertisements or review sites directly in comparison with images taken by Oyster’s own reviewers. On the site, you can look at a slideshow, or look at individual photos – “Sexy lady phenomenon,” “The myth of mega-resort serenity,” and the even more comical “Model man goes surfing in a hot tub.”

Oyster makes its money drawing in visitors with fun features like the Photo Fakeouts, letting viewers know that they’re above and beyond the competition, and then makes sure these potential travelers know that Oyster has them covered for their own dream vacations – personally stamped by their own reviewers. Text only ads and mocking the competition are both a little risky in the marketing strategy department, but in this case they are clever enough to pay off.

What can your marketing strategy gain from thinking outside the box? What do you offer that is better/truer/more reliable than your competitors?

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Tree is a somewhat nomadic graduate student pursuing an MFA in Poetry and Literary Translation from Drew University. A self-identified “diplobrat,” she spent over 16 years living as an expat in countries like Guatemala, Bolivia, and Tanzania. Tree graduated from Smith College in 2012 with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature, a minor in Studio Art, and a concentration in Landscape Studies. In between writing poetry for school and content for CEM, she dabbles in goat herding and freelancing. Other interests include reading, watercolor painting, gardening, and traveling.

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