ByeByeNow.com wants Regis Philbin to turn its network of local travel agents into millionaires.
The fledgling company, which operates a Web site and has more than 250 local travel agent franchisees nationwide, has produced TV and radio spots with the popular talk show and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" host.
The privately held company expects some of its local travel agents to begin running the ads later this year. They feature Mr. Philbin touting ByeByeNow, and will be tailored to mention special deals and the local travel agency where they can be purchased.
ByeByeNow will offer local agents some financial help in purchasing media in their markets, but the bulk of the budget will come from the agent and companies making the special offers.
NO STRIKE BREAKER
Mr. Philbin shot the TV spots in late summer under the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television & Radio Artists interim agreement.
ByeByeNow positions itself as the fusion between old and new in the rapidly changing travel industry. The company's Web site offers video tours of cruises, hotel rooms and other vacation options for pre-trip exploration, while directing people to ByeByeNow bricks-and-mortar franchises where they can book the vacations.
The business model dovetails with research that shows consumers use the Internet to evaluate travel options but prefer to make purchases in person. Figures provided by ByeByeNow show 87% of people who research vacations online go offline to buy them.
TV and radio spots from Krimmel Mandell, New York, tout the Web site and local agent outposts. In one, Mr. Philbin compares buying a vacation to purchasing a car. "I wouldn't buy a car before I saw it," the talk maven says. "For that matter, I wouldn't take a vacation before I could test-drive it either."
ByeByeNow follows the blueprint set by another travel-oriented site, Priceline.com, which used actor William Shatner in heavy advertising to build its brand. "The main function of Regis it to put us on the map," said Tom McDermott, exec VP-marketing.
ByeByeNow has a one-year deal with Mr. Philbin and is counting on the celebrity to help it reach its broad target of all potential leisure travelers.
The company said it hopes Mr. Philbin will help it stand out among numerous ads in the travel field that seek to drive people to Web sites. That marketplace has recently become even more crowded by individual airlines' ads that encourage people to book online, eliminating travel agent commissions.