Choice Hotels Plays Up Free Services

Choice Hotels International is going after money-conscious consumers with a new campaign highlighting the value travelers get by choosing its family of brands.

Three new spots, via Arnold Worldwide in Washington, show that Quality, Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites–among other Choice Hotels International properties–offer complimentary services like free breakfast and Internet access. Choice Hotels has 5,800 locations worldwide.

The spots, which show hotel guests dining, visiting an amusement park and taking a carriage ride, relay the value message via free amenities that Choice Hotels offers. In the past, however, ads played up the convenience of its locations with Johnny Cash’s “I’ve been everywhere” serving as the jingle since 2005. The change in advertising strategy comes as Choice Hotels reported a 33 percent drop in fourth quarter profit.

“For us, it’s not an entirely new focus. Our brands have been known for providing the best value and convenient locations, but we are placing more emphasis on the value,” said Chris Malone, Choice Hotels CMO. “The message to our consumer is: ‘You don’t have to give up all the things you enjoy and love.’”

Choice Hotels, which spent $75.3 million in both 2007 and 2008 on advertising, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus, did not disclose cost of the campaign. Malone said the push coincides with the company’s heavy emphasis on search and online advertising.

The hotel chain has ramped up its keyword search for all properties, as 60 to 70 percent of all hotel bookings are made online, Malone said. Malone also added that in 2009, the company would increase broadcast and online impressions by 4 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

Even during an economic slump consumers still want to travel, but they’re looking for value more than anything else, said Woody Kay, managing partner and chief creative officer in Arnold’s Washington office. “If anything, this is the year of the deal. The staycation is becoming the nearcation. People are discovering that staying at home is not fun,” Kay said, adding that events like weddings and business trips will always call for a hotel stay. The only difference is that instead of seeking out more luxury brands, consumers will be focused on hotels that provide more bang for their buck.