Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hotel Advertising Takes A Turn For The Sexy

My usual morning routine... wake, crank up the caffeine machine, pour a couple of cups down my throat while perusing the news websites & favorite photography blogs. For the past few weeks, the photo-blogosphere has offered little that really caught my eye... that is, until this morning.

One of my usual stops is always to The Photography Post, an aggregate site compiling what the editors there believe to be some of the best blogging from the commercial, editorial & fine-art focused photo blogs. One of the blogs regularly promoted there is that of the NY based Photographer Representation Agency Stockland Martel.

One of today's offerings from the agency's blog, SMart, featured a video recently produced by superstar fashion photographer and music video director Matthew Rolston, commissioned by and promoting luxury brand SLS Hotels.

Borrowing a page straight from Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange", the video opens with a fashionably attired, somewhat androgynous & slightly menacing character, bearing no small resemblance to the Malcolm MacDowell character in Kubrick's film, as he cruises the hotel bar eventually hooking up with two provocatively clad female customers seated at the bar. Following brief, lascivious flirtations at the bar, the trio retires to a beautifully appointed room where the prelude to what is obviously going to end up as a kinky MFF threesome transpires.

Titled "Group Hug", you can see the film below:

Those of you working in the commercial end of things here in the State of Hawaii, or other destination resort areas around the world, no doubt find yourself in the employ of an hotel/resort company from time to time. No doubt your experience, in almost all cases, is to keep things SAFE... tried & true, mass appeal, noncontroversial... SAFE, when producing advertising and marketing imagery when working on their behalf. Rarely... very rarely is there any chance of producing anything even mildly out of the box, artful, risque or memorable. Any exception to that rule is just that... an exception.

The video above brought to mind a couple of very notable exceptions to the rule that also pushed the limits and took a decidedly left-turn from the safe route. All but one of them were quickly retired, no doubt from a sudden pang of fear that someone might take offense. However, these campaigns were memorable, at least to me... evidenced by the fact that they immediately came to mind when watching the Rolston video above.

Here in Hawaii, the boutique resort company AQUA Resorts enlisted a team of west-coast photographers to produce a series of lifestyle marketing images for their Hotel Wailea property on Maui a couple of years ago.

One of the images, a playful B&W image of another MFF trio in the midst of a bed-top pillow fight while clad only in their undergarments was one of the lead images of the slide show that ran on the property's website homepage for a short while. The "pillow fight" image has long been removed while other, "tamer" images from the shoot remain.

At least they had the balls to try something different, sexy and a little out of the normal box!

More than 10 years ago, international resort chain Starwood/Westin Hotels & Resorts launched a similar campaign of television and print ads featuring the memorable tag-line:

"Who Are You Sleeping With Tonight?"

The TV ads were considerably tamer than the Rolston/SLS Hotels video, but still hinted at the idea that a notable part of their business fell in the "tryst" category and that hedonistic activities might be in full-swing just beyond that Do Not Disturb sign hanging from the doorknob.

Las Vegas's destination promotions for some time used the tag line:

"What Happens In Vegas Stays in Vegas...."

Another nod to the pleasure-seeking crowd and another example of the rare straying from the conventional & safe when it comes to resort destination marketing.

Kudos to senior marketing management & their advertising agencies and the creatives they enlisted and, hopefully, will continue to occasionally enlist in producing memorable campaigns. Even in the very short life spans, these campaigns left an impression, were memorable and allowed certain creatives to flex story-telling muscles that were different, potentially controversial & exciting... a grand departure from the normal sterile depictions of hotel rooms & amenities. 

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