The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) investigated four issues arising from Booking.com’s “Booking dot Yeah” campaign, none of which were upheld.
A total of 2,345 complaints were received by the ASA, from viewers of the online accommodation supplier’s recent adverts.
The TV and cinema ad featured scenes of travellers arriving at their holiday destinations, with a voice-over describing their feelings.
One voice-over line was “Planet earth’s number one accommodation site. Booking dot com, booking dot yeah.”
At the end the voice-over said: “Booking dot yeah.”
The majority of complainants believed the word “booking” had been substituted in place of a swear word and felt that the ads were offensive.
In response Booking.com stated that the purpose of the ad was to reinforce brand recognition and association in respect of the word ‘booking’ as both a company name and website URL. Consequently the word was repeated throughout the ad.
In its judgement, the ASA said that it understood that the repetition of the word ‘booking’ was intended to raise awareness of the ‘Booking.com’ brand and had used word play in a comical way to express that message.
It understood that many viewers would understand the use of ‘booking’ as word play on the word “f*****g,” but it felt that the voice-over artist enunciated the word clearly and that it was sufficiently distinct so as not to be generally confused with the swear word.
It added that although some viewers might find the connotation and word play distasteful, it was unlikely that the ad would cause serious or widespread offence.