Holiday Inn Express Site Is First Child of Digitas’ Third Act

The first product of The Third Act, Digitas’ newly created video-focused brand content and media relationship unit, is hitting the Web this week: A second season of “The Smart Show,” a Holiday Inn Express Web series.

This year’s iteration of “The Smart Show,” described as a Web site “showcasing the quirks, challenges and occasional charms of business travel,” is more focused than last year’s, said Digitas Creative Director Ben Jones. “Last year, essentially we had no idea what we were doing,” he acknowledged. “We were inventing it as we went along.”

Jones said the first campaign was fairly successful. Those who saw it responded positively and brand metrics associated with it “jumped up,” he said. However, the first year of “The Smart Show” “didn’t get the kind of reach we really wanted,” added Jones.

So, this year, Digitas focused on “shifting the media strategy” a bit to get more distribution and exposure. Jones said the company “re-allocated dollars away from display ads and into distribution in a really aggressive way.” As part of that strategy, the agency struck a deal with TripAdvisor to integrate “The Smart Show” with the TripAdvisor site.

“Their theory was it’s good content, not just ads,” said Jones.

This year’s campaign is heavily focused on attracting Holiday Inn Express business travelers and trying to get them to spend additional days at the hotels, said Jones. Combining video and Web content with sponsorships and promotions, “The Smart Show” seeks to offer those travelers a heavily interactive experience.

For example, it will have a “Deal of the Week” feature that gives Priority Club Rewards points holders the chance to win prizes. Travel-themed blogs will be written by Andy Plesser of Beet.TV and Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV. Also new is an interactive feature called the The “Need-er-ator” which allows visitors to ask travel-related questions. Answers will be provided by others using the service and by The Smart Show team, which might create shows based on some of the questions, said Jones.

Additionally, a “Ultimate Road Warrior Challenge” game will let players earn Priority Club Rewards points and try to win a Pontiac Vibe by staying at Holiday Inn Express hotels.

Jones described The Third Act, based in New York, as the “brand content group that works across Digitas brand teams.” The Third Act connected Digitas with Endemol USA, the producer of Deal or No Deal and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, to produce the new episodes.

“The Smart Show” will be shown twice a week through October, hosted by the Internet TV network and distributed by and Broadband Enterprises. The episodes will also be available on “The Smart Show” Web site.

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