A series of marionettes plays out a melodramatic scene where the employees of the company work to find deals for customers.
"A group of guys need a hotel in Miami for a party weekend, and money's tight," says the boss to his technician.
"Well sir, our new hotel matrix system is loaded with options...We've just negotiated another OrbitzSaver for a hotel in Miami. In fact, Hunt and Star are there now."
An Asian woman and blonde man are standing on the deck of their hotel, overlooking the pool. The man has a pair of binoculars in his hands as she says, "This OrbitzSaver hotel is amazing. We're close to the beach and the view is magnificent."
The man is actually looking at another man laying by the pool. With heavy meaning, he agrees, "It certainly is..."
Watching from the screen, the boss says, "Eye candy! The party boys will be pleased! Another mission accomplished."
Roman Coppola, son of Francis Ford Coppola, directed the spot from Young & Rubicam, Chicago. The commercial is a rare example of a company intentionally targeting gay audiences on TV, and will run through the summer on the NBC-owned Bravo Network and BBC America cable networks.
For viewers old enough to remember, the commercials are really a nod to the children's action show from the 1960s, "Thunderbirds," which featured square-jawed marionettes in exciting "space-age" adventures.
It will appear on BBC's "So Graham Norton," a racy talk show with a gay host, and "Absolutely Fabulous," as well as two new Bravo shows, dating program "Boy Meets Boy" and fashion makeover show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."
"I'm trying to show Orbitz is a gay-friendly company, not just bring traffic to our site," says Jeff Marsh, the Chicago-based travel company's openly gay director of marketing strategy and promotions. "The genesis of this ad idea came when I read the storyboards -- it was immediately apparent I could put a gay twist on it and make a gay ad."
Orbitz -- a joint effort by American, Continental, Delta, Northwest and United -- created a dedicated gay travelers section a year ago that is now big business. "We always suspected they were our best customers, now we have proof," says Marsh, who cites numerous impressive statistics, including: 100,000 visits monthly to the section and more purchases than general travelers overall. During the U.S.-Iraq war, gay travelers were up to 50% more likely to travel than general travelers, and are 20%-30% more likely in non-war times.
Because of its popularity, the Gay Travel section (known as a microsite) landed a link on the home page, along with high volume links including Disney, Las Vegas, Europe, and others.
"Because the microsite is so successful, the commercial was a no-brainer," explains Marsh, who spent six years in marketing at Quaker Oats Co. "When Bravo was launching those two programs, it made the media plan possible."
The gay-targeted ads make up a small part of Orbitz $25 million annual ad budget, but Marsh laments the lack of places to take his gay commercial. He says "Will & Grace" is too expensive because it's broad-based network TV, but he adds that Lifetime -- long jokingly known as "The Network for Women? and gay men" -- may be next. (The much-anticipated Viacom gay cable network, Outlet, has been put on hold indefinitely, the company says.)