Key Amazon contracts up for grabs as PR is reviewed

SEATTLE - Amazon.com is embarking on a comprehensive PR review, throwing three of its key contracts up for grabs in time for the holidays.

Kathy Savitt, vice-president of strategic communications, said the company is looking for one to three agencies to handle product and tech PR. "It's been two years since we did our last review, and it's just a good business practice to do a review," Savitt said. "It's no reflection on the agencies who are working with us now."

Currently, MWW Group handles PR for books, movies, music, food, apparel, and jewellery. Dobbin/Bolgla Associates (DBA) manages PR for electronics, furniture, and housewares. And Fleishman-Hillard handles technology PR, promoting the technology Amazon develops.

Fleishman and MWW declined to comment on the review, and DBA did not return calls by press time. A source close to the situation, however, confirmed that at least one has opted not to repitch.

Savitt said she is currently speaking to eight firms on the technology side and about 10 for the product work.

The review, which is being handled internally, is expected to wrap up by the end of the year. All corporate communications is handled in-house.

While the company reviews its agency options, Amazon has launched its latest effort to enhance the company's brand.

Each week from now through mid-December, Amazon will debut an original short film on its site. The first, unveiled last week, featured Minnie Driver. Director Tony Scott and actress Daryl Hannah have signed on for projects, as well.

Customers can follow links to purchase products featured in the films after viewing them.

"It's about enhancing the customers' experience," said Savitt of the films. "We are relentlessly customer-focused. We try, through PR and marketing, to create customer experiences, to thank and delight them and also help them discover new products."

Amazon kicked off the films with a press event in Hollywood, but is counting largely on word-of-mouth to attract viewers.

Along with each film, customers can find extras, such as the stars' holiday pages, with comments from the actors and their picks for holidays gifts. Customers also will find links to products that appeared in the films.

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