Element 79 produces quality work for La Quinta chain

L.A. actor Roy Jenkins (right) in new La Quinta “Row” spot

It’s rare — increasingly so — to find a TV commercial where everything seems to come together just so.  Writing. Casting.  Performances.  Direction. Editing.  Message. The whole shebang.

It’s rare to find it in one commercial.   Let alone two debuting together for the same brand from the same agency.  But that rarity has happened, and the work we’re talking about is two new TV spots for La Quinta Inn & Suites from Element 79/Chicago.

These haven’t been the easiest of months recently for Element 79, which has been participating in an extended review for its BMO Harris Bank account.  Many believed that review would be over with by the end of 2011.

Many observers also believed the end result would be a new agency to replace Element 79.  And now most believe the eventual winner will be Young & Rubicam/Chicago, though the formal announcement has yet to come. (Could it be any day now?).

So for the moment anyway, the ever-hopeful Element 79 crew continues to work with  BMO Harris to produce advertising that unshowily and intelligently positions the bank as a helpful place — very unlike another agency nearby (whose initials, we recall, are LB) that almost instantly has turned FifthThird Bank into a bad joke.

Targeting the business traveler

Despite what looks to be an undesirable outcome for its BMO Harris account, it’s apparent from these new La Quinta spots that Element 79 hasn’t lost it spirit and its drive to produce quality work.  Maybe not the most cutting edge work, but quality stuff.

The hotel business is one of the most competitive and cutthroat of marketing categories. Plenty of hotel brands are looking to capture more of both the business and leisure market. But for most hotel chains, the business traveler is the key target, because such customers typically pay the higher rates.

That segment of the market is obviously what La Quinta is aiming at in its two new commercials, which are full of pleasing pep and the kind of humor that amuses in unexpected ways.  The spots are a continuation of a campaign from Element 79 with the tagline “Wake Up on the Bright Side.”

Hotel staff goes extra step in fun spot “Row”

Among other things, both commercials do an exceptionally good job of suggesting that La Quinta and its staff are willing to go that extra step (if not a mile) to accommodate their guests.

That theme is especially well illustrated in the spot titled “Row.”  In this execution we meet Alan, a logistics guy who is a man on mission.

We see him leaving the hotel all revved up for a meeting.  In the elevator Alan suddenly notices he’s forgotten his belt. Without missing a beat, the hotel employee standing next to him offers Alan his.  Then it’s on to the waiting hotel van, where the driver gives Alan a squirt of breath freshener and a word of encouragement — “go get ‘em, tiger.” 

Next comes the big surprise moment and a very visual play on words.  Alan is standing before an executive who is rather nervously eyeing several ducks on his desk.  But not to worry.  When Alan toots his bird whistle, all but one of the ducks magically manage to line up in a row.

And the straggler follows suit soon enough when Alan rather sternly calls out “Bernice,” one of those oddball names that evokes a smile. Of course the visual play on “ducks in a row” may seem corny to some, but here it is of a whole with the spirit of the rest of this fun commercial.

Viewers who watch a lot of TV commercials no doubt will recognize the somewhat goofy actor, Los Angeles-based Roy Jenkins, playing Alan.  He also portrays “Jerry” in a frequently airing State Farm Insurance commercial from DDB/Chicago.  Jenkins has a look and style that must appeal to a lot of TV commercial casting agents these days.

“Boom” spot pays off with unusual components

Selling ice to Eskimos in “Boom” spot The second new La Quinta spot, “Boom,” is about a sales rep named Jeff who uses the modern technology and the flat screen TV in his La Quinta room to psych himself for a sales call.  To pique our curiosity, strange images of an igloo show up on the TV screen in Jeff’s hotel room as he goes about a vigorous round of calisthenics.

Then the spot cuts to the office where Jeff is about to cut a deal with two Eskimos in their wonderfully furry full regalia.  As cool as can be, Jeff plops a huge block of ice on the table.  One of the Eskimos takes a long, hard look at the ice and promptly tells Jeff they’ll take 90,000 units.

The business lingo. The igloo images.  The ice block. The furry Eskimos.  All delightfully odd juxtapositions that make this spot as memorable as “Row.”

Surely these memorable and unusual components will help business execs recall the La Quinta brand if, down the road, they need to reserve a room in a hotel with a helpful staff and an energizing aura. 

Agency credits: Element 79 Partners/Chicago; account team, Sarah Sharon, Betsy Jensen; ECD, Canice Neary; senior AD, Amy Rogers; senior copywriter, Alana Beseau; executive producer, Cheryl Lindquist.

Production: Company Films; editing, Mackenzie Cutler, both New York.  Talent/VO, Fred Willard.

Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com