There's a Sweet Story Behind Holiday Inn's Chinese Ad About a Mother and a Daughter

The Chief Marketer's Own Experience Inspired Emotional Film

Published On
Oct 23, 2015

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Holiday Inn is a seasoned player in China. Today it has 75 hotels in greater China, and it's at work on doubling that number to cater to China's rising middle class. As Holiday Inn sought to freshen up its image, it wanted a campaign that would speak to a clientele split equally between business travelers and families, a tricky creative challenge. The campaign also had to make the brand's global proposition about "the joy of travel for everyone" resonate in China and stand out creatively in a country where tourism has exploded and people are being exposed to more hotel brands.

"In the hospitality industry a lot of things can be very tactical offers and deals for promos and things like that -- the idea here was to put creativity back up front in their marketing communications," said Darren Crawforth, executive creative director for OgilvyOne Shanghai. (Ogilvy is also doing films for five other brands in the InterContinental Hotels Group portfolio, including InterContinental and a China-focused brand, Hualuxe, which is another creative challenge.)

The solution was actually inspired by the personal experience of the brand's chief marketer. Emily Chang, Greater China chief commercial officer for the parent company, InterContinental Hotels Group, told a story about getting heart-rending messages from her daughter during business trips. So Ms. Chang surprised her. Instead of taking her to a piano lesson, they went for an overnight stay at the Holiday Inn.

"She got to swim in the indoor pool with me and eat at the restaurant with me, and at night we just cuddled up, not in our own bed, and it felt so special and it fed my soul," Ms. Chang said. "I was surprised to see how much it could rejuvenate a little kid, so we've tried to make a habit of that whenever we can."

"It's not going to exotic locations, it's just taking a moment out where you can feel at home and yet be somewhere special. And that's exactly what we started talking about with Ogilvy and saying, 'That's what Holiday Inn does.' When you think of creating that personal, intimate moment with your family, Holiday Inn's the only brand that comes to mind."

The film, directed by Jingyi Shao and Jess Jing Zou, is about a business traveler and a family traveler who are the same person, the mom.

The video is being pushed out online, and the brand also bought airtime during some of the most-watched Chinese TV shows, singing contest "The Voice of China" and "Dad, Where Are We Going?" a reality show about celebrity dads roughing it in rural locations with their kids. Because both those shows feature real, personal stories, the brand thought they would catch consumers in the right frame of mind to receive Holiday Inn's message.

Read the full story over at AdAge.