Quick -- name the worst commercials on TV? Yes, those Joe Boxerads are hard to beat for pure, spastic bizarreness, and any commercial that mentions "gas with oily discharge" as a side effect surely represents an advertising low. But when it comes to wretched lines and painful acting, Hotels.com(Nasdaq: ROOM) wins the booby-tube prize.

Funny thing is those ads work. The company's namesake URL (Hotels.com owns and operates several travel-related websites) launched in March 2002, and by June, it was among the top 10 most visited travel websites, according to Nielsen/Netratings.

But Hotel.com's strategy of attracting consumers by airing awful commercials couldn't compensate for a still-shaky travel environment. This morning, the company's management lowered its projections for fourth-quarter revenue to $270 million to $271 million, down from a previously projected $283 million to $289 million. Estimated net income was similarly revised. For 2003, it expects $1.25 billion rather than the $1.4 billion projected in October.

The culprit: Average daily rates (ADRs) on rooms increased, but not as much as expected. Also, the company spent more on personnel and advertising (with no noticeable uptick in quality). It cites a possible war with Iraq as a reason to be more cautious about near-term prospects.

But like other online travel sites, Hotels.com had a good 2002. It now expects revenue to come in between $943 million to $944 million for the year, up 71% over 2001's sales. The stock posted an almost 20% gain for the year, though most of that was wiped out by today's slashing.

As Fool Rex Moore (TMF Orangeblood) discusses in Stocks 2003, the online travel industry in general -- and Hotels.com and competitor Expedia(Nasdaq: EXPE), in particular -- have a lot going for them: no inventory risk, as well as the natural marriage of the do-it-yourself traveler with the Internet.

These profitable companies with high-growth revenues are much cheaper after today's industry-wide haircut.