Smart use of celebrity to sell more stuff: Hostelworld

I love the new ad from Hostelworld. It features Mariah Carey in full diva mode being shocked at being booked into a hostel but gradually warming to the better-than-expected facilities and welcoming atmosphere.

At its’ core it is a wonderfully entertaining product demonstration ad, using a notoriously hard-to-please celebrity to overcome our own prejudices against hostels.

Marek Mossakowski, Hostelworld’s Global Head of Brand, says that many people are still unaware of how much hostels have been improved in recent years. “Now they’ve got all the facilities you’d expect from expensive accommodation, but with an affordable price and with a ready-made community of like-minded travellers to share experiences with,” he comments.

The latest film is one of a series in the ‘unexpected guests’ campaign from the brilliant Lucky Generals. Mariah follows in the footsteps of other demanding celebrities including Charlie Sheen, Chris Eubank and US rapper 50 Cent.

For me there are four lessons for those that are looking to create distinctive, memorable and effective advertising:

  1. Don’t forget to combine product ‘sausage’ and the emotional ‘sizzle’. It would have been easy for the celebrity to become a ‘visual vampire’ and steal the show. But the story of each of the ads is about Hostelworld hostels being better than you may think (the sausage). The use of celerity adds a layer of entertainment and talk-ability, the sizzle!
  2. Don’t be afraid to have some fun. The ‘unexpected guest’ campaign looks like the work of a group of people who are really enjoying their work and this is infectious. We all know that emotional advertising sells and that the most powerful emotion is happiness, there is a lot to be said for making people laugh!
  3. Build memory structure for long-term brand health. I really like the fact that the ‘unexpected guest’ campaign has been running for a while now and has the fresh consistency that will build up memory structure over time. The use of choosey celebrities being seduced by the unexpected pleasures of hostels should become a valuable distinctive asset over time.
  4. Start with media in mind. From what I’ve seen the Mariah Carey film has been used sparingly in traditional media, if at all, but it’s generated a huge number of views on YouTube (9 million at last count), has been covered extensively across all media (just Google Mariah Carey ad) and has been shared widely across social media. It’s a short film that can be cut into many different formats and travel with its own momentum. With relatively low media budgets Hostelworld is a business that understands the benefits of creating entertainment for ever-hungry digital media channels.
  5. Amplify across channels. The Hostelworld team have cleverly used the ‘diva’ theme from the film on the website to promote the quality of the visitor experience.

Best of all the campaign as a whole seems to be driving great results. Brand bookings jumped +13% , net revenue rose by +8% to €86.7m and adjusted after tax profit grew by +12% to a healthy €21.7m, according to their 2017 results, which were neatly released on the same day as the Mariah Carey film,


The Drum, April 9th 2018

Travel Weekly, April 10th 2018