Captain Obvious has been the iconic, humorous brand mascot of Hotels.com since 2014, representing a world traveler who is delightfully obvious.
Dan Donovan, vice president and executive creative director at Crispin Porter & Bogusky, based in Boulder, Colorado, told The New York Times “Hotels.com is an obvious place for people to start searching”, as it would be listed first in a search for accommodations due its name. The campaign name “The Obvious Choice” was inspired by this and was an effective content marketing strategy, as it generated awareness and memorability for the brand by engaging viewers in an entertaining way.
The Creative Vision Behind Captain Obvious
Director duo The Wade Brothers launched, cast, directed and photographed the award-winning global print campaign and online content for Hotels.com “The Obvious Choice” campaign.
The director and photographer brothers have a unique vision of their own, but the family dynamic brings harmony to the images they create. Realistic Lindsey Wade prefers to conquer the camerawork and create authentic images with a graphic finish. The more eccentric Lyndon Wade directs and brings fantasy, irony, and humor to the creative aspects of a given project. Those qualities and the amazing way they come together are immediately recognizable in “The Obvious Choice.”
Lyndon Wade remarks, "We launched this campaign globally with Crispin Porter. We knew instantly that Brandon Moynihan as Captain Obvious was going to be a huge success. Now running for 7+ years and doesn’t look to be slowing down. The Wade Brothers have a long list of clients we have either launched or re-branded. We love having a part in redefining brands and how they present themselves. We’re very proud to have worked on this and loved seeing it grow."
From Funny Commercials to Luxury Advertisements
Although “The Obvious Choice” campaign was humorous, The Wade Brothers have filmed and directed serious luxury advertising campaigns for major name brands such as Toyota, Nike Middle East, Audi, and Bacardi, to name a few.
Growing Brand Value through Funny Advertisements
Captain Obvious has existed virtually in popular culture since the ’90s as a sarcastic, playful name to call people who state the obvious. In Hotels.com’s "The Obvious Choice" campaign, he comes to life in one of the funniest advertisements and best advertising mascots of the last century. Brand mascots have been used in some of the best ad campaigns and funniest commercials ever created.
Here are a few examples of the best brand mascots:
- Flo (Progressive)- Flo is a fictional salesperson for Progressive played by actor and comedian Stephanie Courtney whose humor appealed to people’s emotions and brought attention and awareness to the brand. Not only was the ad funny, but it was well executed and made an impact for more than 10 years. Sean McBride, EVP of Arnold Worldwide and Executive Creative Director of Progressive’s ads for the past five years told Forbes Magazine “I do think there are two fundamental factors that decide whether spots get laughs. Put simply, there are funny concepts, and there are funny executions. And, for me, execution almost always wins. That’s not to say that great concepts don’t make for amazing ads. But the airwaves are riddled with funny ideas rendered lame because of bad execution.”
- Mr. Peanut (Planters)- Born in 1916, Mr. Peanut came to life as an anthropomorphic peanut mascot when schoolboy, Antonio Gentile, submitted his design to a Planters contest. Mr. Peanut served as the Planters company’s mascot for over 100 years, up until his death in a Super Bowl commercial in January of 2020 due to a nutmobile accident. He then was promptly reincarnated into Baby Nut, who now seems to be rapidly aging as he celebrated his 21st birthday in August of 2020 and now has even picked up a monocle. While the ad faced some controversy, it provided a shock factor and brought some relevance back to the Planters brand.
- The Most Interesting Man in the World (Dos Equis)- A well traveled gentleman with refined tastes who claims to be the most interesting man in the world, served as a mascot for Don Equis beer from 2006-2018, with plans of reinventing him in the future. Jonathan Goldsmith is the most memorable actor, becoming a popular meme—I don’t always X, but when I do, I Y.
Present Hotels.com as The Obvious Choice with Humor and Wit
Not only did the character need to embody Captain Obvious’s witty personality, but The Wade Brothers also needed to capture that humor and translate it into imagery that would create a character who could persist through multiple campaigns.
Creating the campaign:
- Hiring a location scout
- Casting the star
- Shooting at location
Create a Smart, Funny Ad Campaign for Hotels.com Introducing a Real-life ‘Captain Obvious’
The process of creating this campaign included determining the perfect casting decisions, scouting the locations for this world traveling character, and using new techniques, methods, and gear to make a killer ad that would withstand the test of time.
The effectiveness of humor in advertising is often controversial and debated. However, there is no doubt that humor is a great tool for advertising when paired with a well-constructed concept. These ads are often gravitational and memorable to the viewer, which is why so many people have a lasting memory of their own favorite funniest advertising campaign mascot.
“...Put simply, there are funny concepts, and there are funny executions. And, for me, execution almost always wins...”SEAN MCBRIDE,
EVP OF ARNOLD WORLDWIDE & EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE’S ADS
Who Plays Captain Obvious?
Actor and comedian Brandon Moynihan was selected through street casting to portray Captain Obvious, which he has spent several years developing. Moynihan is obvious and oblivious, and downright embarrassment proof.
The key characteristics of Captain Obvious needed to be pleasantly obvious, but not ignorant or boring—he needed to be a seasoned world-traveller. Having a human brand mascot as opposed to an animated mascot helps humanize the brand, which is exactly what Hotels.com is, a company of people who love to travel.
“We handled the global print campaign and all the online content. Working with an improv and stand up comic was an absolute pleasure and kept us laughing all day.” — THE WADE BROTHERS
Making a Funny Commercial with Post Production and Editing
While the Wade Brothers directed and filmed “The Obvious Choice” and “Checking in with Captain Obvious,” RW2 sourced expert post-production services for these campaigns.
For the live-action and editorial work, Jon Bazata worked on post-production. Bazata is an editor who has worked with RW2 on projects such as Wendy’s live action commercials.
For still photography, RealFake took a larger-than-life approach with their editing in this campaign. This retouching included transforming many images into one, a common industry technique and Realfake specialty known as compositing. By using exaggerated scale and vibrant colors, RealFake highlighted the humor and complemented the self-evident theme.
How Effective was the Captain Obvious Campaign?
Results in Numbers
Ultimately, The Captain Obvious campaign was a huge success for the brand and creatives involved, winning prestigious awards and fans worldwide.
- Hotels.com won the bronze Cannes Lion in 2014
- In 2015, Harris Poll gave Hotels.com their very first Brand of the Year award, ranking them as the leading company in “Online Travel Services” and the only “brand to show significant year to year change in Brand Equity”
- Gained more than 350,000 followers on Captain Obvious’s Twitter.
- The Wade Brothers earned a bronze and silver award in advertising at Prix de la Photographie Paris (PX3)
The legacy continues to live on as Brandon Moynihan as Captain Obvious is still working with Hotels.com and their ads are still running today, with the most recent featuring a safe booking education course.
The Captain Obvious mascot creates a positive association with the Hotels.com brand name, humanizes the brand, and appeals to people’s emotions with humor. It was well executed with proper planning and collaboration with elite media production professionals to create a memorable, long-running advertisement with impact.