Augmented (Demented?) Reality: Fictional B&B gives tripadvisor.com a huge boost

2010/03/31 at 22:35 1 comment

Quite possibly my favorite media cross-over story of, well, ever.  Proving most Americans do have a sense of humor, and likely, too much free time.  A throw-away joke from NBC’s The Office sitcom boosts tripadvisor.com’s mindshare among the pop-culture obsessed.

As a constant female traveler who prefers to go solo, trips can be made or broken by a lodge/ hotel/ pension; wherever I choose to stay in any given place.  The safety, help, food, security, cleanliness and especially the advice from the proprietors is the most indispensable tool a traveler can have in a far-away, unfamiliar place.  Yet, few people I know (including myself) do more than rate a place by clicking on one to four stars, if they do anything at all.

We’ll spend days obsessing over the possible meaning of a specific article of clothing on LOST, or the many bad days of Jack Bauer on 24, the injustices (and fashion disasters) of the Academy Awards, churning out blog after tweet after Facebook status about any number of things- as long as they’re not real.  Music and books and iPads and bubble tea inspire furious commenting and speculation, but the truly useful information regarding experiences for families, business folk and leisure travelers alike-in numbers or alone inspire less effort, for reasons I don’t quite understand.

I’m not blameless, I do and don’t do the same things.  Though I realize how important accurate, descriptive and diverse-perspective travel advice can be, I rarely take the time post-trip to warn or recommend, to describe or lament missing an event or destination or critical interaction with hotel staff, restaurant owners, local guides, you name it.

But a fictional, thoroughly improbable establishment run by a non-existent ridiculous character (and beet farmer) from what isn’t exactly a hot-spot destination in Pennsylvania?  Well, that warrants a post and a piece in The New York Times, now doesn’t it?

For a B&B That Doesn’t Exist, the Online Reviews Keep Coming

By STUART MILLER
Published: March 28, 2010

One recent TripAdvisor review of the agrotourism destination Schrute Farms awarded four stars, lavishly praising the food, while another yielded just one star, casting aspersions on the owners’ sanity. This wild disparity is especially odd because Schrute Farms doesn’t even exist.

The farm “belongs” to Dwight Schrute of the NBC series “The Office” (and his eccentric cousin Mose). In September 2007, the show asked to use TripAdvisor, a travel Web site, in an episode in which Dwight turns his beet farm into a bed and breakfast. Christine Petersen, the chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor, was thrilled. “We don’t have a big marketing budget and don’t do TV ads,” she said. “This was the big time.”

TripAdvisor set up a review page, thinking it would be good for a quick laugh or two. Paul Lieberstein, who wrote the episode, called “Money,” never even went back to the site afterward. “We thought it would be fun, but then we didn’t think about it anymore,” he said in an interview.

But Schrute Farms is still doing big business — for TripAdvisor. Reruns and DVDs keep inspiring new visits to the site and there are now over 600 reviews (more than for many major Manhattan hotels, Ms. Petersen said).

Many reviewers add their own funny flourishes, enhancing the show’s mythology: Mandy Pyszka from Milwaukee, who stumbled upon the TripAdvisor site while searching Google for Dwight Schrute quotes, raved about the beet pudding.

by Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, beet farmer and agrotourism hotelier.

Carla Harrington of Fredricksburg, Va., was surprised to find 82 percent of reviews recommended Schrute Farms. “I thought about what it would feel like not to know them as TV characters but to really go to this B & B,” she said in an interview. Her one-star slam called Dwight “an overbearing survivalist who appears to have escaped from the local mental asylum.”

Mr. Lieberstein, who also plays Toby Flenderson, a human resources staff member, on the show, said that “The Office” might someday revisit the farm. TripAdvisor executives said they would love that. “We’ve started many a meeting with Dwight’s quote that TripAdvisor is ‘the lifeblood of agrotourism,’ ” Ms. Petersen said. She has contemplated adding the Bates Motel and “The Shining’s” Overlook Hotel.

But not everyone gets the joke. Recently, TripAdvisor added a caveat explaining that Schrute Farms was fictional, Ms. Petersen said. “We had a complaint from someone who had wanted to go there.”

A version of this article appeared in print on March 29, 2010, on page B4 of the New York edition.
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Entry filed under: advertising, advertising- tv, branding, click through, culture, digital, entertainment, Facebook, geo-location, Google, habits, irony, linkedin, reality, social media, trending, TV, useful tips, web.

The technology is great, but the content is the key: are there publishers out there determined to use i-education as a base for maximum distribution? transmedia, multimedia, transmodal, multimodal, what defines true interactive digital edutech?

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