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Premier Inn: 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards Shortlist Interview

Communications, fronted by comedian Lenny Henry, focused on guaranteeing visitors a good night's sleep, and helped deliver a ROMI of £3.38 for every £1 invested.


Q1. When and why did you decide to launch a campaign?

JP: “RKCR was approached by Whitbread in 2007 to pitch for the re-launch of the brand.  At the time the Premier (Travel) Inn was Britain’s biggest hotel chain as well as its least well known. Successive mergers meant there was much confusion around the brand name, identity and offer.” 

Q2. How did you feel about the original brief?

JP: ““It was somewhat daunting!  Premier Inn already offered over 30,000 rooms every night of the year yet Whitbread had already committed to 50% growth over five years. 

“The challenge for the original brief was how do we develop a demand engine that fills the estate every night of the year in the short term, build a loved brand in the medium term, and in the long term address the sector perception problems that held back the growth potential of the business?”

Q3. How hard was it to get the campaign signed off?

JP: “After the pitch the work went into research but fortunately people loved Lenny. He’s the perfect balance of a man of the people and therefore credible for Premier Inn and comedy royalty that brings some celeb sparkle to the campaign.  Once the client saw the strength of appeal there was no debate.”

Q4. When and how did you first know that you had been successful?

JP: “We had an inkling from the qualitative research pre-launch.  Cautious optimism followed the strong first tracking results in April 2008.  And turned into broad smiles when the first quarterly business figures were announced to the City.”

Q5. What was the biggest challenge in demonstrating the effectiveness of your work?

JP: “We knew we had very strong business results, brand tracking and interim indicators but the econometrics we had only covered the first three of the five years of the campaign. 

“To overcome this, we needed to find a way of stripping out the effects of the economic context and huge growth in room numbers.   

“By using the sector comparison Whitbread uses to report to the City, we were able reflect the incremental value created by the brand.”

Q6. How did this campaign compare to previous campaigns by the brand and competitors?

JP: “It’s chalk and cheese.  This is a sector that historically targeted customers in market by carpet bombing the weekend travel press, 52 weeks of the year. 

“To take the advertising out of this environment and up the decision-making chain using TV to target consumers before they intend to travel was a brave step that has redefined how brands in this market use advertising.”

Q7. What lessons did this campaign teach you?

JP: “The value of consistency. Despite the temptation creatively to move on to new campaign vehicles, Lenny continues to perform a strong and valuable role as the brand spokesperson.”

Q8. What were the low points/high points of this campaign?

JP: ““Low points - there have been times over the last five years when understandably the client has been under huge pressure to follow the market and go back to a discounting model – it’s a testament to Whitbread’s courage that it has continued to invest heavily in TV to create demand. 

“High points – creatively, we believe we keep upping the quality of the work so the latest two executions – ‘At the end of the day’ and ‘Bed’, are the ones we are proudest of.”

Q9. What would you do differently if you did this campaign over again?

JP: “Invest in Whitbread shares!  They’ve outpaced the FTSE100 by over 200% in the last five years.”

Q10. If you could have worked on one, other IPA award-winning campaign over the years which would it be, and why?

JP: “Boddingtons (IPA Effectiveness Awards, 1994) some of the best beer advertising ever from the days when Whitbread was a brewer."

Last updated 09/09/2014

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