A rare ray of sunshine from Thomas Cook today: the travel giant says that its summer holiday bookings are up by an impressive 15% - and it reckons it’s all down to its new advertising campaign, in which Jamie and Louise Redknapp frolic on sun-kissed beaches to the accompaniment of a breathy voiceover. All a bit old-school, and it’s certainly come in for a lot of stick – but judging by today’s results, it seems to have been pitched just right for Thomas Cook’s target market. Either that, or the Arctic winter we’ve been having has persuaded everyone that it’s worth splashing out our scarce cash on some summer sunshine...
If you haven’t seen the ad – and we’d heartily recommend it – it shows the ex-footballer and his ex-popstar wife engaged in various holiday frolics like riding horses along wave-flecked beaches (her) and doing keepy-uppies in tight trousers (him), before kicking back glamorously by the swimming pool and then eating dinner in expensive-looking restaurants – all the while providing a sub-erotic commentary in voiceover. The whole experience doesn’t really chime with our previous experience of package holidays, to be perfectly honest (where are the annoying tour reps/ screaming children/ scraps over sun-loungers?). And it’s been much mocked online (check out YouTube for some spoof versions).
However, Thomas Cook would presumably argue that people like seeing good-looking, largely inoffensive people on TV, and that it’s a way to make their holidays seem more aspirational (‘You too can don a kaftan and ride Black Beauty along the shore’). And whether you buy this or not, it seems to have worked: bookings for summer 2010 are 15% up on last year’s figure, while it’s also been able to push up prices for summer and winter breaks by 2% and 6% respectively, boosting margins. Admittedly Thomas Cook lost about £40m in the first quarter, but holiday operators almost always do lose money at this time of year.
To be fair, these ads aren’t really aimed at the kind of people who take the mickey out of them in Guardian chat rooms and post spoof videos on YouTube. The success of Thomas Cook suggests that its ad agency Campbell Lace Beta has done a good job of identifying its target market, and making an ad that appeals to it. Or maybe it just means that not even a cheesy ad can dissuade us Brits from taking our fortnight in the sun.
In today's bulletin:
BT's giant pension deficit will take 17 years to plug
Diageo sales flat as drinkers shun premium brands
Thomas Cook cashes in on dodgy Redknapp advert
Browne: CEOs need better work/ life balance
Editor's blog: The not-so-beautiful game