Expedia.com hires HL for consumer-focused PR push

BELLEVUE, WA: Expedia.com has hired HL Group as its US AOR to strengthen its PR outreach to travelers.

BELLEVUE, WA: Expedia.com has hired HL Group as its US AOR to strengthen its PR outreach to travelers.

Paul Leonard, VP of brand marketing at Expedia said Expedia.com has “high expectations” for PR to deliver on consumer media coverage, as well as for publicity in business media like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. The company is currently revamping its social media strategy, too.

The outreach will mostly target frequent leisure travelers and “unmanaged business travelers” who predominantly work for small or medium companies and plan their own business trips. The PR strategy will also address consumer perceptions that the site used to book the travel doesn't matter, he added.

“We're trying to build deeper relationships with key media and to better leverage PR to build and differentiate our brand more than we've done in the past,” Leonard said.

The selection of HL Group follows a revamping of the overall marketing function at Expedia.com, which included issuing an advertising and communications agency review in April. Expedia.com's budget with HL is "in the low seven figures," said an industry source familiar with the deal.

The parent company Expedia, Inc also owns TripAdvisor.com, Hotwire, and other brands, but Expedia.com is its largest business, said Leonard, who joined the company in January.

In addition, Expedia.com hired Tim MacDonald as GM for the brand earlier this year, and last year Eric Grosse was named president to oversee all Expedia-branded sites worldwide. Expedia also recently reorganized the company to manage its brands globally, rather than by regional markets, and PR was also integrated with Expedia.com's brand marketing team. Adam Anderson, a former senior product manager for Windows at Microsoft, also recently joined Expedia.com as PR director.

A new AOR ad agency, The Martin Agency, was selected in July. Leonard said he selected HL, primarily known for its experience with lifestyle and luxury brands, because he believes high-end consumer brands rely heavily on PR to build their businesses.

“I think the way we work and look at PR is similar to the way they approach product questions at Expedia.com,” said Hamilton South, a founding partner at HL, which is part of MDC Partners.

Edelman, the incumbent PR firm, continues to work on b-to-b portions of the business for the parent company, Leonard said.

Pete Pedersen, chair of Edelman's global tech practice, told PRWeek in a statement that the agency “maintains a longstanding and fruitful engagement with Expedia” and still works on several lines of its business.

Expedia.com first started working with HL earlier this year doing consulting work on its brand strategy, which was not a part of the PR review.

“We're in the midst of a lot of positive transformation, so it was time to make a change,” added Leonard.

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