Motel 6 Courts Hispanics in L.A.

Tom Bodett may be practically synonymous with Motel 6, but the longtime spokes man won’t be present in the client’s first Spanish-language campaign.

The budget motel chain has hired Grupo Gallegos in Los Angeles, an affiliate of The Richards Group, as its first Hispanic agency and is launching a radio campaign next week targeting Hispanic leisure travelers in the L.A. market.

The shop was awarded the creative and media account after being introduced to the client by The Richards Group, Dallas, which has handled Motel 6’s general-market account for 16 years.

“They have great knowledge and understanding of the product, and it seemed quite natural for us to use Grupo Gallegos,” said Carol Kirby, executive group vp of sales and marketing for Motel 6 parent Accor Lodging North America in Dallas.

Billings are less than $1 million. The client spent $17 million on general-market ads last year, per CMR.

Motel 6, which operates more than 100 motels in Southern California and first opened in Santa Barbara, wants to tap the large Hispanic population there, Kirby said. It has also created a separate 800 number, which Kirby said would aid in measuring campaign success.

As with the general-market ads, the Hispanic work will use humor, but there will be no spokesperson. “Doing a translation of Tom Bodett is not going to work,” said agency principal John Gallegos, adding that Bodett’s dry wit would not resonate with the target market.

Instead, Grupo Gallegos is positioning Motel 6 as the “hotel of motels,” with the cleanliness and service of a hotel but without the high prices, Gallegos said.

Creative uses exaggerated situations to depict the bad experiences people might encounter at a “typical” motel, Gallegos said. The listener is then invited to experience Motel 6.

The tagline is, “Te dejaremos las luces encendidas,” a straightforward translation of the familiar “We’ll leave the light on for you.”

The effort includes two 60-second spots as well as 30-second promotional spots for Motel 6’s Hispanic baseball sponsorships.

While the focus is now on L.A., Kirby said the campaign could be extended in 2003 to target Hispanics in states such as Texas and Arizona. The motel chain has more than 800 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

Formed last July, Grupo Gallegos has 10 employees and $12-15 million in billings. Its other clients include Nokia, Pep Boys, No Nonsense Pantyhose, Eye Care Centers of America and MetroPCS.