Having worked domestically and internationally as a director of marketing with Marriott Hotels for years, I can honestly say (perhaps with prejudice), this hotel chain outshines its competition when it comes to advertising. The Residence Inn, one of their long-term-stay brands is continuing that tradition into the 21st Century, with the introduction of "Dude," the frequent-traveling giraffe.

For those road-warriors who travel frequently for business, you might have caught their most recent commercial featuring giraffe-turned-business-exec and perhaps initially questioned what a 12-foot-tall herbivore had to do with hotels? Well, that's just the point - it made you stop and look. And for competing hotel chains, it's a wake-up call that the tried and true features-and-benefits type of ad is no longer as effective as it used to be. Today, you need to shake it up a bit, inserting something a little off-center to capture the attention of the traveling public.

Plus, in this 30-second spot, the Dude certainly reinforces the tag line "you can walk tall in a Residence Inn."

Dude is one of a series of wild kingdom characters, the  Residence Inn is using in this year's ad campaign titled: "Wild About Residence Inn," which promotes the increased role of long-term travel in the American economy.

So popular has Dude become -- that Marriott has actually used him for guest appearances on the streets of Washington, DC. A recent Huffington Post report opens with, "if you saw a 12-foot-tall giraffe standing outside of Newseum. . .you weren't hallucinating."

Opal, the ElephantOpal, the ElephantThis past March, the Residence Inn hosted a red carpet event at the museum to unveil its new advertising campaign to the press. The commercials which also ties in the tag line, "room to stretch" works in nicely with the use of an oversized animal to underscore the point. The other wild kingdom characters which have already been cast for similar commercials include Opal the elephant and the Van deer Beeks penguins.

At the Newseum event, over a 100 members of the press were invited to conduct a meet-and-greet with Dude. For concerned animal lovers, it was reported that Dude was kept inside a heated 14-foot tent which kept him warm and cozy on a chilly wintry day.Hey Dude, Where's My Hotel? Residence Inn Recruits Giraffe From Wild KingdomHey Dude, Where's My Hotel? Residence Inn Recruits Giraffe From Wild Kingdom

So is Dude the precursor for other big brands to start using over-sized animals in their ads? Well if PETA doesn't get involved (as they have so often in the past with the use of acting animals) it's very possible.

Except, Dude is not the first "Mad Men" four-footed actor to take on an acting gig in commercials - nor the only one with a long neck. For those who are familiar with one of Geico's most famous ads, not only is "Caleb" the camel a huge commercial success, he's already identifiable as the poster boy who signals the weekly occurrence of Wednesdays rolling around, long-known as "hump day," the day that breaks up the work week. Perhaps Marriott might think about introducing Dude to Caleb in a future cross-promotional commercial? Not a bad idea, now that I think of it - I guess once a Marriott marketer, always a Marriott marketer!