Misleading Hotel Advertising

The pages of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) website are a good source of material for me these days.  Hotels and tourism businesses pop up regularly enough to be featured in a blog post.  Not as frequently as they used to be until Groupon got a grip on the largesse of their offer writers, but still enough for me.

Today’s tale of woe comes from an unexpected source…

Park Plaza Hotels – usually so carefully run – have incurred the wrath of the ASA this week.

Where did they go wrong?  You can read all about it by clicking this link.

But just in case you don’t have the time to do that, here’s the short version.

Here’s the basis of the text of their advert:

BLACK FRIDAY ARRIVED EARLY LONDON £119…Enjoy Black Friday one week early with our exclusive offer…£119 for all our London hotels. Book before 23.59pm (CET) Tuesday 22 November 2016 on parkplaza.com for stays between 18 November 2016 and 15 April 2017

The campaign was phenomenally successful according to Park Plaza Hotels.  However it caused two complaints to the ASA because people couldn’t find any rooms for sale at £119.

What Was The Problem?

The campaign was structured in the same way as many other hotel marketing campaigns:  It was riddled with caveats and qualifying statements.  You know the sort of thing, “subject to availability” is the one regarded by most industry managers as a sort of Get Out Of Jail Free card for lazy and feckless sales copy.

Misleading Advertising

Well it turns out that the qualifying statements were all contained on a second page – the page you visited after clicking on the original advert.  You see, people who are in the know understand that £119 for a night at any London Park Plaza is a bargain, so they would be keen to click through and get themselves that bargain.

It’s that phrase “£119 for all our London Hotels” up there in floodlit, glorious technicolour for all to see.  It doesn’t say that only a few rooms will be available.  It appears to offer ALL rooms in ALL hotels.  At least it could be interpreted in that way.

And that’s what makes it misleading advertising.  It’s a grand claim which is later curtailed.

Availability

The problem with a lot of online hotel offers is one of availability.  Sometimes hotel marketers try to be just too cute.  As has happened in this case.  It should be common sense to you that if you’re going to run a campaign to sell stuff at £119 per unit, you need to make sure there are enough units to sell.  Availability is a critical component of advertising.  If you don’t want to sell them at £119 – as is suggested by all the crazy caveats and qualifying statements – why promote them at that price in the first place?  All you’ll succeed in doing is creating disgruntled customers.

…and that’s the sort of thing that raises your profile when people blog about you.

HotelSphere