How a country developer became a national celebrity
When the Brand Marketing team were finding it difficult to cast an ‘ordinary-looking’ Indian actor, Abhinav Kumar stepped up. Eventually…
Abhinav Kumar is trivago’s Country Developer for India, and it goes without saying has had quite an eventful few years since joining the company back in 2012. None quite so eventful as this last one however, where his star has risen rather dramatically and, at first, reluctantly.
When casting for the Indian-market ‘trivago guy’ for the localised TV spots, the Brand Marketing team cast a fairly wide net for actors. They received a lot of interest from India-based models. Unfortunately they found that, although a lot of the applications were from some very talented individuals, they were all a bit ‘well groomed’.
Lat: So, Abhinav, how did you find yourself in the firing line?
AK: In India being a ‘model’ means a lot of body-building, and striving to look perfect. But, of course, as this is trivago, the team didn’t want that, they wanted an authentic ‘everyday’ person. I was approached by Fabian, who directs the TV spots and asked if I would be interested in a taking part in a quick test shoot.
Lat: Was your response an immediate Yes?
AK: No, no! It was an immediate Fu*k no!
Lat: So how were you convinced?
AK: Persistence. Fabian just kept saying ‘do it!’ and eventually I gave in. So we just did a quick, secret test shoot in Berlin to see how the spot would connect with people.
Lat: And presumably it did connect?
AK: Well, at first it wasn’t particularly out of the ordinary. We used a visual pre-testing tool to see how the ads performed against our new trivago girl, who was testing quite well also. To be honest there wasn’t much in it, no significant difference. So we thought we might as well take it a step further to get some more telling data
Lat: What was the next step?
AK: We tried running the two spots in parallel (myself and the trivago girl) on an online video platform in India that has a high viewership. We wanted to get a lot of impressions so we had some solid data to base our decision on.
Lat: And, you performed well then?
AK: Yes, I won’t really go into figures, but something clicked for the audience I think. So we decided that it was time to go to TV.
Lat: You say ‘we decided’; did you have a choice in the matter? Were you on board now?
AK: Well… the thing is, I am the Country Manager of India, and a big believer of power of proof. I couldn’t argue with the results! So yes, I was on board.
Lat: Did you know what was coming?
AK: Yes I was aware of what might come..
Lat: And it did? Were you suddenly recognised when you returned to India?
AK: Well, yes. We launched in December last year, and I went to India in the middle of January. And I was getting a lot of stares! The funniest thing was attending a conference, representing trivago, and networking. Of course people knew they would be meeting someone from trivago, but they didn’t know it would be ‘Mr. trivago’ haha. I think that confused some people.
Lat: So, a household name back home now, when people meet you, are they friendly?
AK: Yes, mostly! To be honest the biggest reaction has been online. I have been trolled a lot on social media!
Lat: Haha, how do you react to the trolls?
AK: I troll them back! In a humorous way of course…
Lat: What has been some of the online abuse you have suffered?
AK: Well, I have been part of a few memes. They crop up all the time. And I find them very funny, actually. One was calling me Harry Potter, another was a ‘Who would you least like to sit next to’ picture featuring some pretty ‘annoying’ celebrities in India, myself included! It was nice to see some people defending me in the comments though!
Lat: Sounds like a bit of a rough ride! Have you had any support from anyone famous?
AK: No it is fine. Well, there is a very famous Bollywood director who ‘mentioned’ me on Facebook. They updated their status: “Who is this guy on the TV singing to me every 10 minutes!”
Lat: How did you react?
AK: I tagged them in a reply. And posted the ad link! I said ‘Thank you for trolling me! Did you know trivago shows you the ideal hotel haha!’
Lat: It’s true the trivago advertising machine never stops! So, any more ads planned?
AK: Oh I’m not sure, but never say never!
Lat: Thanks Abhinav. Good luck! See you around the coffee machine haha!
Abhinav in action: