In a new spot of Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), STORY Director Jeff France explores one of the most vexing problems of modern business travel: what to bring home for the kids. Conceived by Seattle agency Possible, the ad promotes IHG’s Travel Rewards program.

Waiting for their mom to return from a business trip, two girls speculate about the goodies she’s bringing. “Act excited,” heaves one. The reason for their lack of enthusiasm rests on a nearby table:  a collection of corny knickknacks. These remnants of past trips express their own curiosity over the new arrival. “What’s it going to be this time?” chirps a ceramic T-Rex.

When mom arrives, she first proves the girls right by pulling a kitschy unicorn from her bag, but then surprises them by announcing that on the next trip, they’ll be going along—courtesy of IHG’s Travel Rewards. “We’ll be 100 feet from the beach!”

“It’s a situation familiar to every parent who travels for business,” says France, who is known for directing comedy with a human touch. “In your rush to get home, you realize you have gotten anything for the kids and you find yourself staring at lame products in an airport newsstand.”

France added to the realism through careful casting and understated direction. The couple featured in the ad is bi-racial, but the director insists that was mostly a matter of chance. “We picked actors whom we liked regardless of ethnicity,” he says. “It worked out really well in terms of portraying the changing American family.”

France also had a lot of fun in casting and directing the collection of talking knickknacks. “We cast a group of actors with strong improvisational skills,” he says. “We recorded them sitting around a table. It was a wonderful, free-spirited exchange with the actors, agency creatives and me chipping in ideas. It was like being at a comedy club.”

The whole production had a loose, improvisatory feel, France adds. “We worked as one creative unit from casting through the shoot,” he says. “We had great chemistry and kept evolving and improving the idea.”

STORY is represented on the East Coast by SuperPowers (646) 633-4578; in the Midwest by Melissa Thornley (312) 752-5369, in the Southeast by Miller + Associates, (954) 563-6004; in the Southwest by Gossip!, (214) 288-2813 and on the West Coast by Yvette Lubinsky, (310) 827-2626.

For more information, visit