Hotel Impossible, Brand Possible

 In Audience Research

I recently stumbled upon a new reality show, Hotel Impossible, on the Travel Channel. I’m not a big fan of reality shows, but this program is much more. Each week, Anthony Melchiorri, a “hotel improvement” expert, is challenged with helping a hotel owner turn his or her business around. In my view, the “reality” here is that Anthony is a larger-than-life personality whose advice is extremely relevant for media, advertising, and brand managers alike – not just for the hoteliers. Let’s face it, today marketers are confronted with brand challenges, and they also need to understand how consumers interact with both new media devices and new advertising formats.

Now, back to Hotel Impossible. The show caught my interest with a pilot focused on Gurney’s Inn, located in Montauk, NY. If you work in advertising in New York, you know Montauk, and if you know Montauk, you know Gurney’s. As a boy, I learned to fish on Montauk with my Uncle Bucky (yes, I do have an Uncle Buck). As the Hamptons grew, fertilized with new money, the New Yorkers pushed farther out and changed Montauk from a quaint fishing town to a busier destination sprouting beach house mansions by the dozen.

The problem for Gurney’s Inn, like many brands, is that it did not change fast enough. Gurney’s Inn, a $400 per night resort, relied heavily on its heritage (and the fact it was the only big resort in Montauk for some time). Brand “heritage” may be a positive attribute, but it rarely drives consumers to make a purchase. Don’t lead with heritage; use it to support your product innovations. Sure, Budweiser breaks out the Clydesdales a couple times a year, but they know beer consumption is driven by image; hence the advertising relies on humor to elevate their “cool factor.” In Hotel Impossible, Anthony Melchiorri took a 1960’s lobby and transformed it into a modern, welcoming space with iPad stations. This wasn’t just lobby renovation, but lobby innovation, by establishing a new technology requirement (don’t bother if your hotel has a “free HBO” or “air conditioning” sign).

These same rules apply in media too: Don’t just repurpose your 30-second TV ad for an online or mobile environment — innovate and create a video ad that aligns with the technology platform. When planning TV, think about the DVR and look for networks and programs with low commercial fast-forward rates (as a media guy I had to know; Hotel Impossible does a nice job at retaining commercial viewing versus fast-forwarding).

Anthony consistently begins with the fundamentals (a requirement), leads-by-example, innovates with technology, and motivates the staff… sound familiar? It seems more possible than impossible if you ask me, but I’m just an ad guy, not a hotel owner.

Greg DePalma is Vice President of Audience Insights at TiVo Inc., where he consults with advertiser, agency, and network clients to increase commercial effectiveness in a DVR world. Greg can be reached at

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