BEST WESTERN SWITCHES TO NEW DESTINATION ADS: MIDPRICE CHAIN BIDS BELLHOPS ADIEU TO FOCUS ON ITS LOCATIONS

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The comical bellhops used to portray Best Western hotels as fun yet service-oriented lodgings are checking out.

In February, Best Western International plans to launch a destination-driven campaign as executives feel the bellhops have accomplished their goal: to remake the chain's image from a dowdy, off-highway stop into a full-service chain with city and resort options.

The marketer will double its media spending to $20 million annually each of the next three years, according to Wayne Wielgus, VP-worldwide marketing and sales. Best Western hotels are independently owned and operated; owners approved the increase earlier this fall.

The 2000 campaign will be primarily TV, but also include some print and local radio elements. Details are to be unveiled to hotel owners at Best Western's international conference this week; specific creative is yet to be determined.

The soon-to-be-retired, red-suited duo, who made their debut without speaking in a 1997 TV campaign, proved so popular they were developed more fully in later advertising, even introduced by name -- Brian and Walter -- and given speaking parts.

LARGEST LODGING BRAND

In breaking from its service-focused message, the new campaign will focus on what Best Western considers its trump card: location, location, location. The innkeeper has 2,124 properties in the U.S. and more than 3,900 total worldwide, and bills itself as the world's largest lodging brand.

"We're probably the only hotel chain that can say, 'We're part of the travel experience and local culture,' " Mr. Wielgus said, giving a hint about the new approach.

Best Western "wants to be the chain that's in many ways everywhere you want to be," added Tom Hollerbach, president-CEO of its agency BBDO/West, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Best Western competes in what's loosely defined as the mid-price segment, against such chains as Holiday Inn, Howard Johnson and Ramada Inns.

The new effort will include from three to five spots and targets both business

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