Kids Go HoJo with Sega
From Sega Retro
Kids Go HoJo with Sega was a Sega of America-sponsored advertising campaign for the American hotel/motel chain Howard Johnson's, produced by Californian marketing firm Strottman International and run during the summers of 1993, 1994, and 1995.
Born from a venture between Sega of America and the American chain of hotels and motels Howard Johnson's, Kids Go HoJo with Sega was a unique summer promotion intended to increase room sales at the company's properties by making the chain seen more enticing to the children of possible guests. The promotion ran in all Howard Johnson's across the United States of America and Canada over three periods: From May 24th through September 6th, 1993, from May 27th through September 5th, 1994, and from May 27th through September 4th, 1995. During the promotion, all the company's hotels, motels, and inns were equipped with life-size cutouts of Sonic the Hedgehog displayed in the lobby for guests to take souvenir photographs with.
Sega provided Howard Johnson's properties with Sega Game Gears and a small library of games for guests to play at no charge. Through the Kids Go HoJo Fun Club, children were also provided with a collectible series of FunPacks containing Sega-themed puzzles, games, booklets, and toys, and a free one-year subscription to Sega Visions magazine. Additionally, a pair of VHS promotional features were available to rent or purchase - Sega Game Gear Tips Volume 1 and Sega Game Gear Tips Volume 2.
Game Gear rentals
Standard models of the Sega Game Gear were available as free rentals to guests and their children, along with a small selection of games. Guests were required to place a significant safety deposit with the property, usually $150 (the system's full price) but in some cases were required to leave up to $300 with the hotel, in the case the child damaged or lost the system.
List of rentable games
Larger hotel chains frequently provide the children of guests with small collections of activities and toys, both as a form of personal entertainment, and as a means to keep restless children occupied during long stays. Upon the launch of Kids Go HoJo with Sega, the chain released a new series of their existing FunPack activity packs with Sega-related properties - colorable postcards featured Ecco the Dolphin and Tempo, and activity books prominently featured the character Ristar.
Sega Game Gear Tips
One of the campaigns most-remembered features, and the one most associated with Kids Go HoJo with Sega today, is the series of 1995 promotional VHS tapes Sega Game Gear Tips Volume 1 and Sega Game Gear Tips Volume 2. Produced by Canadian video production company St. Michel Productions and available for guests and their children as a free rental, each tape features a series of different tips for the chain's available Sega Game Gear games, are are both built around the same main video - an extended advertisement where a Howard Johnson's spokesperson promotes both the Game Gear and the hotel's amenities.
Produced with a great deal of influence from Sega of America's attitude-filled marketing (particularly as it began migrating towards more high-energy advertising), the advertisement was created to be fast, flashy, and attention-getting, with quick cuts and a literal strobe light blinking intermittently in most scenes. Additionally, the premise was intentionally produced to feature the Howard Johnson's spokesperson repeatedly harassing and stalking a visibly-disturbed guest for the entirety of the advertisement, and at one point even gestures at beginning a sex scene between said guest and a hotel maid; concerningly adult for a product intended for young children.
As Howard Johnson's faded in popularity, so did its name. With the maturing of the internet and the establishment of websites like YouTube, the promotional advertisement soon became associated with the now lesser-known company, and frequently to such a degree that some are only familiar with the hotel chain through this single video.
|“||Kids have a tremendous amount of influence - far more than you would think - in choosing a hotel.||„|
— Kids Go HoJo creator Barry Parish
Kids Go HoJo was created by Howard Johnson's vice president of marketing Barry Parish in late 1989 to early 1990 to address the company's stodgy image and slipping occupancy rates, playing to the decision-making power of the guests' children by way of amenities specifically catered to them (like video game arcades and children's activity packages.) While not an unheard-of concept, Parish consolidated all the necessary ideas and business practices under one unified branding, and proceeded to advertise the chain not just to parents, but to their children as well. Most notably, the packages' items would feature the branding and likenesses of America's most recognizable franchises.
Seeing its run in early 1990, Kids Go HoJo soon became a renowned success, and Parish sought to further capitalize on this momentum by collaborating with one of the largest rising names in the American video game industry: Sega of America (and particularly their world-famous mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog.) Parish made the necessary agreements with Sega, contracting Irvine, California-based advertising agency Strottman International to produce and coordinate the majority of the promotion, and New York, New York-based advertising agency Christy McDougall Mitchell to produce the campaign's television advertisements. Responsibilities largely fell to one of Strottman's marketers, Michael Berreth, who was significantly involved in the creation and development of the campaign (and would later receive a CSPA award for his efforts.)
Kids Go HoJo with Sega was supported by a $3,500,000 advertising campaign, including commercials on national television, print advertisements, and radio promotions, as well as local, grassroots promotions in smaller advertising areas.
Kids Go HoJo with Sega's success was soon noticed within the hospitality industry, and within the next two years, at least nine other brands launched similar programs. For its accomplishments with the campaign, Strottman International was awarded the CSPA Award of Excellence for Best Worldwide Traffic-Building Promotion.
While altogether a successful campaign, Howard Johnson's name recognition eventually began to fade, and the chain would lose much of its former marketshare over the next two decades. With the advent of video sharing websites, uploaded copies of the promotional VHS tapes Sega Game Gear Tips Volume 1 and Sega Game Gear Tips Volume 2 began to appear, and later became minor viral sensations - often to a point where many only know the hotel chain through this promotional video alone.
Despite the campaign's unflattering modern associations, it still enjoys a more positive legacy in the marketing industry, and is remembered as one of the more notable and successful hotel advertising campaigns.
- Main article: Kids Go HoJo with Sega/Magazine articles.
- Main article: Kids Go HoJo with Sega/Promotional material.
Pog (Knuckles the Echidna.)
Pog (Nack the Weasel.)
Pog (Ecco the Dolphin.)
- Howard Johnson’s Sega Game Tips article by Lydia Bugg at 1900HOTDOG
- Hotel chains link to cartoon folk article by Christy Fisher at Advertising Age
- Official website (Howard Johnson Hotels)
- Press & Awards (co-creator Michael Berreth's website)
- Achievements (co-creator Barry Parrish's website)
- https://prabook.com/web/kenneth_james.strottman/177475 (Wayback Machine: 2021-10-26 17:10)
- Press release: 1993-02-18: NEW HOWARD JOHNSON KIDS GO HOJO WITH SEGA VIDEO GAME FUN PROGRAM
- Press release: 1993-02-23: Make room for Hedgehog (The Record from Hackensack, New Jersey; page 39)
- Press release: 1993-07-18: FAMILY HOTEL DISCOUNTS GET SUMMER BOOST
- Press release: 1994-04-10: Hotels Aim Their Deals At the Kids
- Press release: 1994-05-16: HOTEL CHAINS LINK TO CARTOON FOLK
- Press release: 1995-05-07: PRACTICAL TRAVELER; Hotels Offer Deals and Toys
- Press release: 1995-07-16: AUTISTIC CHILD IS A CONFIDENT VIDEO GAME ACE
- GamePro, "May 1991" (US; 1991-xx-xx), page 16
- File:SGGTV1 VHS US Box Back.jpg
- File:Howard Johnson Case History (by Barry J. Parrish).pdf
- http://www.hojo.com/common/jan4_c.html (Wayback Machine: 1997-04-08 05:34)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j25djaQCpA (archive.today)
- Press release: 1997-01-08: HOJO ADS SAY "FEEL AT HOME"
- http://www.strottman.com:80/history2.html (Wayback Machine: 2001-05-20 17:17)
- http://www.hojo.com:80/common/history.html (Wayback Machine: 1997-04-08 05:59)