In Holiday Inn's first Super bowl appearance since 1986 ("A Promise"), a transexual’s physical changes since high school are a metaphor for $1 billion in systemwide upgrades. Among those who objected to the controversial spot, the Southern Baptist Convention's Home Mission Board called Holiday Inn several times to lodge formal complaints. Ad Age reviewer Bob Garfield criticized the joke, but his prediction that “enraged, torch-wielding franchisees” would focus their anger on new agency Fallon McElligott didn’t pan out. Even as headquarters canceled plans to keep “Bob Johnson” in rotation, Gary Schahet, president of the International Association of Holiday Inns, told Ad Age after the game that calls to his office ran 5-to-1 in favor of the commercial. Another franchisee said 75% of the people he spoke to thought the ad did a good job of signaling what was going on at Holiday Inn. A third said younger viewers loved the spot. "It was the older people who didn't," he said. "But they aren't our customers. We are trying to get the young business executive back into Holiday Inn." Yet another said the attention was worth the criticism. "We spent $2 million on TV time and production but got $10 million in publicity," the franchisee said. "We would not have gotten that with a `Stay with someone you know' ad. One might say all that publicity isn't bad.”
In a statement, Holiday Inn Exec VP-Chief Marketing Officer John Sweetwood said it "never our intention" to offend viewers. The rest of Holiday Inn's campaign advertising its renovations went on as scheduled, with spots playing up improvements such as thicker towels and electronic locks. The chain and Fallon McElligot returned the next year for Super Bowl XXXII (“Jury Room”).
BRAND: Holiday Inn
AGENCY: Fallon McElligott