InterContinental Hotels Books TurnHere for Branded Web Films

In the hopes of getting people into its swanky rooms, InterContinental Hotels and Resorts is aiming the camera at what’s outside of them. Local online travel video producer and distributor TurnHere has begun producing short Web films about each of the lodging company’s 140 worldwide hotel locations. The effort, which is TurnHere’s first wide-scale sponsored film series for an international advertiser, is part of InterContinental’s broad branding initiative to promote its personalized concierge services and neighborhood smarts.

“What sells the hotel isn’t just the hotel but the neighborhood and what you’re going to do there,” suggested TurnHere CEO Brad Inman.

The hotel’s sponsored mini-movies will spotlight sights and places of interest surrounding each hotel. Keeping with TurnHere’s mission to harness the charismatic appeal of neighborhood characters, the InterContinental flicks will be narrated by each hotel’s concierge. In the first of the series, Robert Watson, chef concierge at The Willard InterContinental Hotel, offers viewers an insider’s guide to his favorite Washington D.C. spots, beyond The White House and other requisite destinations.

“The main objective of this is that we want to provide our guests with authentic and local knowledge of each destination,” said Jennifer Ploszaj, global director of brand communications for InterContinental Hotels and Resorts. “[TurnHere’s] business model allows us to scale this across the world,” she stressed. “We’d never be able to do this on our own.”

Over 80 cities in the U.S. and elsewhere are represented by quirky locals and their favorite haunts on the TurnHere site, which features hundreds of professionally-produced films about neighborhoods, shops, restaurants, bars, clubs and other points of interest. Thus far, most of the short Web movies are not sponsored. However, paid advertorial films promoting local advertisers like Atlanta’s bottle opener maker, Brown Manufacturing, and Poughkeepsie’s wiener joint Soul Dog, are cropping up on the site.

The film production firm is setting it sights on national advertisers with local footprints for future film series, and has been in talks about creating videos for liquor and bank brands, according to Inman.

Because a variety of directors will be shooting the InterContinental films, they “won’t be formulaic,” Inman noted. Movies focused on Paris, New York, Prague, Mexico City, Toronto and other hotspots are in production for the hotel chain.

The advertiser aims to have about 40 of the intended 140 movies completed by the end of October, according to Ploszaj. In addition to the TurnHere site, the films will be featured on InterContinental’s pre-trip planning concierge Web site, and later will be integrated into the company’s main site. In addition, Inman noted, InterContinental might place films on its in-room television video network or post them to the homepage of each hotel’s wireless network.

The firm also will feature its films in e-mails. “We’re developing a viral marketing strategy,” Ploszaj told ClickZ News. “Our goal is to share this information with a wider audience of consumers.”

The advertorial films, which will be co-branded by InterContinental and TurnHere, will be distributed through Google Local and Google Earth, according to TurnHere’s Inman. The production firm in July introduced its integration with Google Earth, which allows users to download an application that marks map locations with icons linking to TurnHere movies about those cities. TurnHere also distributes its shorts through MSN Video, Google Video, iTunes and Yahoo.

All of the production firm’s movies can be e-mailed, downloaded or linked to. The company also lets affiliates place a text ad-supported TurnHere player on their sites that automatically streams different mini-flicks each day. Affiliates can license a premium player and split ad revenue with the film company.

InterContinental’s recent marketing efforts include sponsorship of an Aston Martin racecar driver, according to Ploszaj, who added that TurnHere will shoot a “day in the life” of the speed demon at the upcoming Petit Le Mans race in Atlanta. Along with the video series, Ploszaj said InterContinental is running banner ads on AOL and Yahoo, targeting finance, travel and lifestyle content. In addition, the advertiser is running new campaign spots on CNN International, and plans to re-launch its site next year.

In related news, TurnHere on Monday announced it will provide video production services to online video job recruitment firm RecruiTV.

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