Holiday Inn Says, ‘Stay You’

Looking to connect with consumers on the rebound from the recession, Holiday Inn is launching a $100 million campaign that celebrates its customers with the theme, “Stay you.”

The effort, via IPG’s McCann Erickson, premieres May 2 and spans nine global markets, including the U.S., U.K. and Germany. It builds on Holiday Inn’s brand overhaul last year, which included upgrades to its physical locations and ads touting those changes. As part of that $1 billion overhaul, the InterContinental Hotels Group-owned brand had renovated more than 2,200 Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express venues last year.

This time around, the focus is on the chain’s customer mind-set, as ads play on the double meaning of the word “stay.” For instance, in one commercial a man is shown barbecuing in the rain and this message appears: “Stay determined.” Then there’s an image of a little girl putting a tiara on her father’s head; the copy reads: “Stay dad.”

Steve Ohler, executive creative director at McCann, said the upbeat music used in the spots is meant to convey optimism. “This year is going to be more of an emotional refresh. We wanted people to feel that Holiday Inn is opening its arms to [them],” said Ohler.

In fact, the campaign’s overall goal is to tap into people’s emotions. “We want people to love the Holiday Inn brand because it understands the core values of our target consumer,” said Kevin Kowalski, client svp of global brand management. Those values are independence, self-knowledge, family first, fulfillment and fun, Kowalski said.

“Stay you” is a milestone for the hotelier because it is the first integrated campaign created by a single ad agency to run globally, according to Kowalski. In Germany, for instance, Holiday Inn will air a TV ad for the first time.

Other components include print, online and out of home across the nine markets. There is also a social media component, although Holiday Inn isn’t sharing the details yet.

Kowalski said that when it comes to the brand overhaul, Holiday Inn means business. In addition to the campaign, the company created a service program called “Stay Real,” which trains the Holiday Inn staff to make sure they provide good service. “It’s a way for us to tell consumers that we’re different at Holiday Inn. It’s a place where you can be yourself,” he said.

InterContinental spent $18 million advertising Holiday Inn hotels/motels in 2009, and $8 million advertising Holiday Inn Express, per Nielsen. (The figures do not include online spending.)

This campaign is the first from McCann since InterContinental consolidated global creative duties on Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express at the shop late last year.