Motel 6 Budgets the Laughs

The Richards Group takes a holiday from the usual summer vacation fare in its new campaign for Motel 6.

Travelers in the series of six15-second television commercials breaking this week stay at the lodging chain for a variety of reasons, from out-of-town weddings to visiting the in-laws.

The vignettes will air on nationally syndicated programs and cable channels such as TBS, TNT and ESPN. As many as 10 of 21 radio spots also will break in major markets beginning today.

Longtime Motel 6 spokesman Tom Bodett narrates each of the TV and radio ads in his deadpan style, ending with the familiar tagline, “We’ll leave the light on for you.”

“We’ve been doing this campaign for a long time, and we didn’t want to cover the same ground,” said creative director Christopher Smith, whose Dallas shop has held the Motel 6 account for the past 16 years. “When we’d come up with ideas, we’d say, ‘Oh, no. We did that 10 years ago.’ So it was a long conceptual process that took several rounds and tons of brainstorming.”

The result was a handful of fast-paced, humorous spots aimed at the budget traveler.

Two bridesmaids in hot pink taffeta dresses complain about wedding expenses in one spot. Both then brighten because they are saving money at Motel 6. In another ad, a husband is disappointed about visiting his in-laws, but he and his wife are happy they are staying at one of the discount hotel chain’s 800 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

In “Beaver,” a sports team mascot clad in his animal suit checks into a Motel 6, glad that he will have a room by the pool after another tough night at a stadium.

Smith said the spots already have passed the litmus test: tough scrutiny from franchisees and operators at the crosstown client’s annual convention.

“Humor doesn’t always work, and with the 15-second format, you’re constantly learning,” Smith said. “Sometimes what sounds the funniest on paper isn’t funny at all.”

Sheri Cartwright produced the TV spots, and Gary Weis, veteran of several Motel 6 efforts, directed. Executive creative director Mike Malone oversaw the campaign.

Accor’s Economy Lodging operates the Motel 6, Red Roof and Studio 6 chains.