I was a media buyer in another life, specifically for crappy 1-800 commercials and .com start-ups, so I like to keep up to date on the latest whatsiwhosit you can get for $9.99 or some website that promises to fix your computer via the Internet. The secret that they don't tell you about these ads is that the networks and cable channels sell these companies cheap leftover time that they can't sell to anyone else. This is why you may see the same commercial for the Perfect Bacon Bowl three times in a row on the Oxygen Network; they couldn't sell the time to anyone else.
With this in mind, I spent much of this winter watching the NHL network, which does indeed exist, because of my husband's love of the New York Rangers. I have no idea how many commercials these games feature throughout, but it took about four of them for me to realize that no self-respecting advertiser was buying time on this channel. Three commercials played over and over again: Mycleanpc.com, J-Date and Trivago.com.
Trivago.com? Yes, by now you have either seen these commercials and watched in a state of awe or you are now Googling (just follow the link, but then come back!) Trivago, as I gather from the ads, is a hotel-booking site akin to Kayak that finds you the best deals on the web. That's all well and good, but has nothing to do with the appeal of its commercials. Rather, their spokesperson, given the very inventive name of "Trivago Guy," is the real draw.
Messy-looking, donning a button-down shirt that he couldn't be bothered to button, with rumpled hair that gives the air that he did the walk of shame over to the sound stage, the Trivago Guy is perplexing, to say the least. I recall very specifically questioning his wardrobe. "Don't they have an iron on set?" But as disturbed as I was about Trivago Guy's lack of sophistication, I was drawn into his blasé charm. Trivago Guy is that dude that you called your "weird crush" in high school; even you didn't understand why you wanted to make out with him, but you did.
By now, I hope you have watched the commercial and you either agree wholeheartedly or you think I've been married too long. But let me ask you this: How would you feel if you found out that Trivago Guy's name is Tim Williams and that he is Houston-born and raised and has a deep love of James Coney Island? Yep, that's what I thought.
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Tim Williams was born at St. Joseph's and his father and grandfather were golf pros, Jack and Robbie Williams, respectively. Williams's dad was the head golf pro at a club in Westchester, New York, and so the family spent their summers in New York and winters in H-Town. He graduated from Robert E. Lee High School. Though he no longer lives in the city, his family still does and he comes back to visit often.
"I love Houston so much," says Williams, "and it has such a deep place in my bones...My parents still live there and I have so many friends that I've known forever...I have such a blast of every emotion when I'm home."
I should mention that I am not the only person out there to find these ads completely engrossing/fascinating/I don't get it but can't turn away. Not only does the Trivago Guy have a fake Twitter account, but there are memes, and some people are even talking of fan fiction. People have taken notice and Williams is pretty cool with it all.
Trivago, a German company, first asked Williams to do the English voice-over for the commercials before eventually asking him to stand in front of the camera. Williams is still in Germany and hasn't been back much to get a feel of the hub-bub, but he never would have imagined the response.
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"Some are so heartwarming," he mentions, "others are givers and others are bashers... But either way, they are talking about www.trivago.com."
I asked Williams if he thought all the attention was sort of strange and he is pretty humble about it, saying that people by and large are strange, so why not? He does what the company asks him to do and it's their job to market the product. Whether the result of Williams's lack of hair product was intentional or not, it's working!
In addition to doing a lot of television and film in Germany, Williams is a musician. He and some friends have released an EP titled "Temporary Man"; he's a classic rock fan (and of course he loves ZZ Top). He says that his music is also influenced by country and western, with the flavors of George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and George Strait. You can check it out on his Facebook or his website.
Sometimes when you get to know(ish) the real person that you previously knew only by his unshaven demeanor, the appeal is lost. In this case, I wouldn't say lost, just different. Williams closed our conversation with a serious shout-out to Houston, which made me like him even more.