Holiday Inn Spends $100M to Appeal to White Dads

Last Updated May 5, 2010 4:23 PM EDT

Holiday Inn will be spending $100 million on a new ad campaign that hopes to appeal to what it calls the core values of its customers; independence, self-knowledge, family-first, fulfillment and fun -- but the commercials look like they're appealing to Midwestern white families.

The "Stay Real" commercial campaign comes after Holiday Inn's $1 billion renovation of 3,300 properties, with 2,200 hotels relaunched with more contemporary digs. The commercials are scheduled to run alongside Major League Baseball and popular programs such as American Idol, The Amazing Race and CSI, and are supposed to appeal to 25-50-year-old men who are married with kids.

According to USA Today, CEO Kevin Kowalski had this to say about the new campaign:

Our target guest is the everyday hero and they share five core values: family first, work-life balance, self knowledge and fulfillment, spirit of independence and fun and enjoyment. The other thing we know about this guest is they take great pride in staying true to themselves. Hence their fundamental need from a hotel is an unpretentious place where they can relax and truly be themselves.
How do white men 25-50 be authentic? Apparently by barbecuing in the rain, playing with children or watching sports. Personally, I found the message lackluster, but both Marriott and Starwood are touting the return of business travel, so perhaps Holiday Inn hopes to place itself as a slightly cheaper alternative for businessmen on a budget.

The campaign seems to lack any people of color or women, which I think isn't doing Holiday Inn any favors -- at least in this country. The commercials, made by McCann Erickson in Sydney, will also be shown in Singapore, Germany and Britain, so perhaps a male-dominated campaign makes sense globally. Still, I can't see how a homogeneous group of white men would be an ideal choice.

Who often plans travel for companies? As an administrative assistant for a tech company in the late 1990s, I can tell you it was often me -- definitely neither a manager nor a father. The reality is that appealing to the businessmen themselves, to the exclusion of all others, may not be the best idea for a $100 million ad campaign.

Photo: Holiday Inn