Up in Arms about Ads 4 – That Trivago guy

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Good ads, bad ads and Fictional Character ads

Like “Captain Obvious”, and all the other “faces” of brands, Tim Williams is now the actor in the Trivago ads, and the poor man is probably getting hopelessly over-exposed from that ad being shown so often. Williams was born in Houston, Texas, but has lived the past ten years in Germany.

He has acted in Valkyrie (2008), Ninja Assassin (2009) and The Apparition (2012). He also sings in a band. Viewers have commented that 1) he looks sloppy, 2) he has a weird accent and 3) he is odd-looking. Well, for one, he is 5’9” tall, just under 6 ft, so he lopes with a sexy swagger, rather than walks. On his Facebook page, he looks a lot older (but then he is 48) with a grey-blonde beard and hair. In the ad he wears a rumpled shirt and black jeans without a belt, with his sleeves rolled up. They could’ve smartened him up some, but actually, now he just looks like a guy taking it easy on vacation. I have heard this ad a million times, and try as I might, I cannot pick up a German accent, perhaps slightly in the clipped consonants when he says “out” and “click”. For the rest, he sounds neither Canadian (it’s trivago.ca) nor American – just sort of in-between.

Williams is pretty real, and he still has a real acting career. But some actors have been eclipsed by the fictional characters they portray in ad campaigns. Remember these fictional characters created for commercials? Do you know who these actors are, or were?

  • Captain Obvious (for hotels.com)
  • Captain Morgan (for eponymous brand rum – but based on an actual historical figure)
  • The Man Your Man Could Smell Like, a.k.a.The Old Spice Man
  • The Most Interesting Man in the World, a.k.a Don Equis (for Don Equis Beer)
  • The Marlboro Man (cigarette brand – when cigarette adverts on TV were still allowed)

Here’s a whole long list of fictional characters created for American TV commercials.

Ultimately, does the creation of a fictional character to represent a brand is good until it loses its newness or runs for so long that it becomes a TV trope. The problem with using real people as spokespersons or faces of brands is that they could stop being recognizable or start misbehaving. Remember how many product sponsorships Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong lost after their respective scandals? Fictional characters at least can be controlled and manipulated.

The Marlboro Man
The Marlboro Man
Old Spice Man
Old Spice Man
Captain Morgan
Captain Morgan
Captain Obvious
Captain Obvious
Don Equis
Don Equis

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