Behind Marriott’s Bonvoy branding film and event integration

Those who watched the Oscars saw plenty of decent ads, but one brand managed to go beyond just a spot during the broadcast. Marriott unveiled its new loyalty rewards program, called Bonvoy, with a cinematic 90-second ad, then integrated itself throughout the broadcast in smart ways that caught the camera.

The film was the main focus and it kicked off a marketing campaign that features Marriott's global properties in the best light possible, while letting the world know about Bonvoy.

In the spot, people are seen in all manner of relaxation and vacation. All of them use the celebratory word ‘Bonvoy’ to replace words like ‘cheers’ and ‘hello,’ creating a new language for Marriott’s "Rewards Reimagined” campaign. The ad was directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie) in conjunction with Marriott Creative and Content Marketing and agency Observatory Marketing.

With cinematography by two-time Oscar-winner Janusz Kaminski (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan), the campaign features short vignettes filmed at Marriott International properties, including The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, W Verbier, JW Marriott Nashville, The Westin Golf Resort & Spa Playa Conchal, Sheraton Grand Hotel Dubai, and the Courtyard by Marriott Sedona.

The Drum talked with the people who brought the campaign to life about how they traveled the globe to find the right shots at the best hotels and helped create Bonvoy.

The name was derived from the term ‘bon voyage’, said Scott Weisenthal, vice-president, creative and content marketing, at Marriott.

“At the beginning, when we were looking at a name, we wanted something that would resonate globally, and bon voyage has been said around the world as a means of wishing people good travel. Really, at the heart of the program, it’s about helping our members pursue their passions around the world. We also wanted a name that wasn’t rooted in the expected loyalty name. As we move forward, we want this to be looked at as a travel program much more than just a loyalty program,” he said, adding that he hopes the Bonvoy name will help build an emotional connection with guests.

Getting the crew on board

Independent Media represents both Jeunet and Kaminski on the commercial side, and Susanne Preissler, executive producer and managing partner at Independent Media, assisted in bringing in both to the international shoot. It helped that the two were able to globe hop to make it happen.

“When I receive a proposition for a commercial, (I ask) am I able to have some fun? Sometimes it looks interesting, but you think it will be boring. Sometimes you don’t feel the spirit. Sometimes it’s a muse,” Jeunet told The Drum.

“The main idea was so simple…it was easy to say yes, immediately. When I make a commercial, I love to bring some ideas. I don’t like when I am just [hired] to be a director, to make exactly what I have to do. Because I am used to writing my own script, and I cannot avoid finding ideas. In this case, because it was so many vignettes, it was so easy for me to bring some ideas in the same spirit. We had the opportunity to visit different countries, hotels, so I couldn’t refuse, and I love to work with Susanne.”

Jeunet added that he and Kaminski worked together for a Verizon film. “He’s such a great DP. The best part of when I see a Steven Spielberg movie…oh my god, he’s so good. Especially the backlight. He’s so talented. He’s very fast. He finds something beautiful. For example, in Verbier, in the bar…it was not an easy set to light. He’s totally crazy, but he’s so good.”

The mutual love seemed to be all around for the Bonvoy crew.

“From the Marriott side, we were so lucky to get Jean-Pierre, Independent Media, Janusz, and work collaboratively with Observatory, the agency, because at the end of the day, we know that travel is emotional, travel is visually stunning. We wanted to work with people who we knew could translate that beautiful experience of travel on to the screen. To be able to have people like Jean-Pierre and Janusz at the helm of creating this campaign, was something that we are really grateful for,” said Marriott's Weisenthal.

“It’s not the case for every commercial that you have a good relationship with the creative team. We worked like a team, totally together. We never had a conflict or anything bad. We’re like a band of friends, which is pretty rare,” Jeunet added.

An international shoot at world-class destinations

The Bonvoy shoot captured locations inside and outside of the featured hotels, and the scenes are both cinematic and visually rich. But the complex shoot made for a great deal of travel and a lot of logistical challenges.

“In one month we visited — for casting and shooting in 10 different cities in the world — New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, the Grand Canyon, Zurich, Dubai, Costa Rica, Verbier in the high mountains of Switzerland, Tokyo, Kyoto. It was so great to visit different cultures, different countries, different people, different hotels. One day we were on the snow with the Canada goose on top of the mountain. Two or three days later we were in the middle of the desert in Dubai on the dunes, or on a beach in Costa Rica. So, it was different and it was such a dream to have the opportunity to visit different countries,” said Jeunet, adding that, while he hasn’t made a lot of commercials (“maybe 60 or 70”), the Bonvoy campaign was “the best shooting in my whole life.”

At the outset, the crew received a catalog of 70 hotels, which helped them whittle down to the handful they used for the shoots. Jeunet said he remade the storyboard 10 times because he kept getting so many ideas before settling on the final flow.

Jeunet pointed out that any frustration he had arose from having too much good to shoot. For instance, he said, the hotel in Kyoto was “the best hotel I have ever seen in my life” and he had so many ideas that he “wanted to shoot everything; I could shoot two weeks in that hotel.”

The results showed up first at the Oscars, which the team thought was a fitting setting because of the cinematic scope of the project and the film-style visuals.

Marketing Bonvoy through partnerships and placements

One of the big ways Marriott is getting the Bonvoy name out there is through experiences and events. The company already has partnerships with the NFL, NCAA, a newly announced one with Manchester United, and with AEG. Marriott also just expanded its marketing partnership with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport around the F1 season, which will give Bonvoy members chances to get up close to the sport.

“The idea is to work with these partners to recognize our loyalty members to push out the name through the extensive media coverage that they get, ultimately laddering back to that notion of helping our members pursue their passions in sports, in entertainment, in culinary,” said Marriott's Weisenthal. That’s why the company kicked off at the Oscars in a big way.

“When we think about working with Jean-Pierre and Janusz, we think about how movies and travel are so symbiotic. That’s why we’re especially proud of what we created with the Academy and ABC. It was because of that whole notion that film inspires travel and travel inspires film,” he said. “We had this unique pod with ins and outs that made it feel like part of the show. So, when the best supporting actor walked off the stage with his statue, the Oscars ‘voice of god’ talked about that symbiotic nature, and how movies this past year have taken people around the world and enamored them with this joy of travel.

"This was a first for the Academy: they allowed us to use that center screen on stage. So, to everybody at home, it looked like...they were actually seeing it in the theater.... [They] played 90 seconds of our content, and after that you were right back in the show with the Marriott Bonvoy logo on a monitor backstage and Laura Dern walked right past it and went out on stage to do her presentation. It just flowed and it seemed like this integration was a seamless part of the show, nobody knew we were in commercial time, and that’s something we are really proud of.”

The team behind the Bonvoy campaign hinted that there might be room to expand the creative to include longer stories and more from the footage they took, though that is still in planning stages.

Throughout 2019, Marriott Bonvoy will come to life through a series of experiential events for members taking advantage of the company’s marketing partnerships with iconic brands including Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Dubai Jazz Festival, The Hong Kong Sevens and World Golf Championship – Mexico Championship.

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