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Holiday Inn Express today launches its first TV campaign, positioning itself as a smart choice for budget-conscious travelers.

The humorous ads from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, feature Holiday Inn Express guests expounding seemingly intelligent advice in unfamiliar, often dangerous situations. In one spot, a man with no medical knowledge offers an intricate diagnosis to a fallen bicyclist. In another, a woman with no knowledge of structural engineering tells a concerned bus driver that a rickety bridge will support his overloaded bus.


The line "It won't make you smarter, but you'll feel smarter" pops up on screen after each scenario. The tagline: "Stay smart."

The advertising will run through September on cable; outdoor will support. Spending is estimated at $10 million.

When Fallon won the Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express account in August 1996, the combined budget was put at $30 million.

The ads are designed to show the intelligence of staying at Express, said Tom Seddon, VP-marketing. In a further pitch to cost-conscious customers, ads tout free breakfasts and local calls.

"Our primary goal was to give [guests] a reason to stay with us rather than our competition," Mr. Seddon said, adding, "We're trying to stand out and really make people look at us in a different way."


Mr. Seddon said a second goal of the campaign is to increase brand awareness and make a distinction between the full-service Holiday Inn properties and Holiday Inn Express.

The Express line differs from the core brand because Express caters to "a road warrior who is seeking few amenities," said La Detra White, Holiday Inn Express director of marketing. "A lot of people staying with us are traveling at their own expense," she noted.

Parent Holiday Hospitality recently changed its marketing approach, trying different campaigns for each brand. Crowne Plaza is its third chain.

"The whole company is really trying to work more along pure brand lines rather than use an umbrella strategy," Mr. Seddon said.

Contributing: Alan Salomon.

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