TripAdvisor’s brand recognition is greater than most. But is it?

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simone puorto - tripadvisor commercial

Fresh off returning to U.S. national TV advertising after a two-year sabbatical, TripAdvisor has been outspent by hotel-search rival Trivago over the last two weeks by a margin of nearly three to one.

Trivago’s spend at some $18 million in the U.S. from June 21 to July 4 compared with the second-largest spender, TripAdvisor, at nearly $6.8 million.

Trivago seems to have increased its advertising spend in the last couple of months, but it’s unclear whether that is a response to TripAdvisor’s return to TV or just the advent of summer travel season.

In the past, TripAdvisor has stated that it wouldn’t need to spend as much on TV advertising as its competitors because TripAdvisor’s brand recognition is greater than most, and it already is attracting huge consumer traffic to its sites for a variety of reasons, everything from reading hotel and restaurant reviews to booking tours and reserving hotels and vacation rentals.

“I think that’s the old school mentality of ‘We’re on the throne and nothing’s going to change that,'” said one advertising analyst who declined to be identified. “Look at someone like BlackBerry. They had huge marketshare that got cannibalized by a sexier brand because they thought they could keep up the status quo. Times change, and to win you need to reach new consumers, not just survive with what you’ve got.”

TripAdvisor’s increased ad spending is part of a quest to let consumers know that they can search and/or book hotels on its sites, not just leave reviews. And the competitive field is wider than up-and-coming Trivago.

Google’s hotel metasearch product isn’t on TV at all, but Google is taking marketshare in part because of its near-monopoly in search.

The TV advertising space, though, is fairly crowded.