No room for logic at Holiday Inn Express

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Advertiser: Holiday Inn Express
Agency: Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis
Ad Review rating: One and one half stars

The TV campaign introducing Holiday Inn Express motels is pretty amusing--right up until you realize what they are trying to sell. Then the mind reels, trying to pick up a trail of logic.

Alas, that's a journey to nowhere.

Screen 1 from the spot

Screen 2 from the spot

Screen 3 from the spot

Screen 4 from the spot

"Just stay still," a guy says to open the first spot, which shows a bicyclist sprawled in pain on a roadside after a spill. The speaker has rushed to help. "Don't move . . . OK, now, does it hurt when I do this?"

He squeezes the cyclist's knee, making him cry out in pain.

"OK," the samaritan says, "possible torn meniscus. Is there any pain when I do this?" This time he grabs the victim's kneecap itself, producing a bigger yelp of agony.

"Oh, all right. You've dislocated your patella. I'm going to have to set it. Hang on."

"OK," the cyclist says, bracing himself. "You are an orthopedic surgeon?"

"No," is the reply, "but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night."

Then some title cards: "It won't make you smarter. But you'll feel smarter. Holiday Inn Express. Free breakfast bar. Great rewards program. Stay smart."

Get it?

We didn't think so.

Oh, the joke is cute. It just doesn't happen to have the slightest connection to Holiday Inn Express. (Whatever that is. The ads don't bother to say.)

A second spot is about a bus driver pausing in trepidation at the threshold of a rickety old wooden bridge until a passenger chirps up: "That's a Fullerton suspension bridge. The strength to weight ratio of those arches is 1,000-to-1. And the support cables are tungsten wrapped with zirconium flex plates. They'll easily support the weight of this bus."

Turns out she's not an engineer, but she stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.

The third spot shows a woman, being threatened by a grizzly bear, taking (bad) advice from a supposed park ranger. It's funny when he tells her to box the bear's ears, but not so's you'd want to remember the advertiser.

This campaign from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, is so self-indulgent and ill-conceived, it's a challenge to catalog all its shortcomings. But let's start with the central idea:

There is none.

The campaign is three jokes in search of a premise, and none too close to finding it. The gags turn on smartness--but what these know-it-all characters demonstrate isn't smartness. It's knowledge. Which even stupid people can have. Being well-informed in a narrow area of enterprise is not necessarily a measure of intellect. (Ever spoken to a refrigeration mechanic?)

That's a trivial objection, of course, next to the surpassing illogic of the "feel smarter" theme. Namely, why would you feel smarter after a night at Holiday Inn Express? Do they have a "Flowers for Algernon" thing going, brain hormones in the coffee? SAT tutorials on SpectraVision?

Presumably what they mean is that you're a smarter consumer for staying there, but, besides the flashing mention of a free breakfast bar, they don't say why. Is it cheaper than regular Holiday Inns, or what? These ads do not even begin to explain. They certainly don't explain what makes a hotel "Express."

Maybe there's no long lines for the bathtub.

What a silly description for what putatively is an oasis of relaxation to the harried vacationer and business traveler. Stay tuned for the competitive response:

Ramada Turbo.

Copyright May 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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