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Hotel brands looking to reach younger, digital-savvy travelers will have better success with native online content and familiar, albeit untraditional, spokesperson than empty social media updates or standard TV and print ads.

Most economy hotel brands have not partnered with a popular comedian to represent their latest campaign; however, most brands have built upon a single humorous campaign concept since its launch in 1998.

Holiday Inn Express‘ Stay Smart campaign has evolved many times over its 16-year lifetime and, in its latest iteration, tapped comedian Jim Gaffigan as its spokesperson.

Gaffigan will appear in a series of video ads that appear on Funny or Die as well as pre-video roll across the web. The brand is also a sponsor of Funny or Die’s Oddball Festival.

“Holiday Inn Express has a history of doing funny stuff so I wasn’t worried about them not understanding a humorous take on things,” Gaffigan explained about his decision to partner with the brand. As a comedian who has taken on middlebrow brands from Hot Pockets to Subway, Holiday Inn Express knew he wouldn’t necessarily keep to the script.

“I think there’s a certain confidence behind it. The straightforward approach can be tiresome and get lost. There’s an atmosphere of fun here that helps communicate a sense of warmth.”

Gaffigan’s familiarity of the brand also made him a good fit for the role.

“I don’t want to sound like a shill, but why I was open to this was that I’ve stayed at Holiday Inn Express many times with my family. I understood the benefits of this type of hotel.”

Vice president of the Holiday Inn Express, Jennifer Gribble, echoes his sentiments.

“[Gaffigan’s] type of comedy is very approachable and that’s important for a hospitality brand,” says Gribble. “It is a great fit because his comedy style really resonates with our consumers.

Move to Digital

Gribble describes the hotel’s target customer as “independent, on the go and online” in explaining why the brand decided to embark on a 100-percent digital campaign for the first time.

The $14 million campaign includes many of the same ad elements of previous campaigns redesigned for digital platforms.

For example, radio ads will appear on Spotify and Pandora instead of traditional radio channels, ads will appear on websites like Buzzfeed and Slate instead of newspapers, and video ads will appear in between YouTube videos instead of TV shows.

For talent like Gaffigan, brands’ shift to digital channels has caused a change in the way they view partnership opportunities.

“As an actor, you used to think about whether it was a network campaign, cable campaign or a local campaign,” explains Gaffigan.

“It used to be an Internet campaign meant no one would see it. Now people are more likely to see internet campaign that if it were on a network TV show. It’s an interesting landscape.”

Below are two Holiday Inn Express campaign videos with comedian Jim Gaffigan:

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Tags: branding, holiday inn express, marketing

Photo credit: Comedian Jim Gaffigan is the spokesperson for Holiday Inn Express' latest iteration of its Stay Smart campaign. Holiday Inn Express / YouTube

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