Saumya Tewari
Advertising

Yatra.com: Journeying from flights to hotels

In its latest burst of communication, Yatra.com promotes its hotel booking business, a vertical the brand is visibly bullish about.

When profit margins are slim, product extensions come in handy. This is exactly what's happening with the business of online travel booking sites. Hotel -and holiday package- bookings are emerging as a much needed ray of hope for the segment. Experts go as far as to say the business margin in the hotel booking segment is almost double that of the flight booking segment.

Promoting this very side of its business is online travel agent (OTA) Yatra.com. In its latest TV campaign, the brand reminds viewers that living with friends and relatives, while out of town, comes at a steep price... way steeper than booking hotels through Yatra.com.

Yatra.com: Journeying from flights to hotels
Yatra.com: Journeying from flights to hotels
Both the commercials feature young men who intend to stay at their respective relatives' place while away on out-of-city trips. The relatives, in turn, have unreasonable expectations from them; while one expects the protagonist to donate his kidney, the other wants him to marry her less-than-perfect daughter. Both ads end with the tagline 'Ehsan mat lo, discount lo' (Don't take favours, take discounts).

Through these films the brand attempts to convey, in lighthearted manner, that Yatra.com offers attractive discounts on hotel bookings.

The campaign has been created by McCann.

Yatra.com: Journeying from flights to hotels
Yatra.com: Journeying from flights to hotels
Sharat Dhall, president, Yatra Online, tells afaqs! that his team's focus over the last year has been on driving the hotels and holiday package business. "Our previous campaign was about both, holiday packages and air fare, but this one talks only about hotel bookings," he points out, going on to add that both the segments have recorded significant growth over the year gone by.

Dhall is quick to concede, nevertheless, that the penetration of the online hotel booking segment is still very low in our market. The objective of the campaign, we learn, is to let people know that booking hotels online is a convenient affair, after all. The message, therefore, is two-fold: great discounts and ease of booking.

About the insight that led to this campaign, Kapil Batra, executive creative director, McCann, says, "When people visit a different city, their first preference is to stay at their relative's place instead of checking in to a hotel. That's how we came up with the idea of showing what relatives may expect in return for the favour."

Currently, around 60 per cent of Yatra's total sales comes from its hotel and holiday package business. The company claims to have tie-ups with 15,000 hotels in India and over four lakh hotels around the world.

Interestingly, over 20 per cent of Yatra's hotel bookings comes from the mobile platform. Last year, shares Dhall, this number was a single digit one.

Besides TV, the media mix of the campaign includes print, radio and digital media channels.

Recall that Yatra.com was founded in 2006. Besides flight and hotel bookings, the portal also gives users the option of making railway reservations. Yatra.com is backed by Norwest Venture Partners (NVP), Reliance Capital, Network 18, Intel Capital, Vertex Venture Holdings and IDG Ventures.

Yatra competes with the likes of MakeMyTrip, ClearTrip, Expedia, Goibibo, Via and Hotels.com, among others.

Funny, yes. Memorable, no.

While the ads have a slice-of-life element, they lack a strong brand connect, believe our experts.

Yatra.com: Journeying from flights to hotels
Yatra.com: Journeying from flights to hotels
For Raghu Bhat, founder and director, Scarecrow Communications, the creative idea - Don't stay with relatives as they will expect a favour in return - might be funny, but is not based on a consumer truth.

"Possibly, the ad would have been stronger if the guest was shown overhearing disparaging things being said about him by the host, or if the awkwardness a guest feels while staying at a relative's place was leveraged in the execution," he argues.

Bhat feels that since the films feature just "a face and a dialogue", they don't have much repeat value, as once the joke is revealed, the ads have little else to offer. "The branding element should have been stronger," he says.

According to Suchitra Sukumar, senior strategy planning director, Publicis Ambience, reminding viewers about the 'ehsaan' of others, is no doubt a "strategic move" that will bring in new consumers, for not just travel but for hotel bookings as well. "I think this is a sharp expansion of the relevance of online travel booking," she says.

Though Sukumar feels the ads are well executed and that a great deal is conveyed simply through the expression of the protagonists, she sums up with a lukewarm comment: "This is a generic ad campaign that can be relevant for all travel booking platforms."