Travel and tourism - The W factor wows London

Starwood Hotels asked John Doe Communications to launch W London, its first major property in the UK.

House band: Kate Moss introduces the supergroup
House band: Kate Moss introduces the supergroup

Campaign W London Premiere
Client Starwood Hotels
PR team John Doe Communications
Timescale September 2010-March 2011
Budget £100,000


  •  To introduce the W brand to UK lifestyle media and generate excitement
  •  To cement W's relationship with fashion, music and film
  •  To open at 100 per cent occupancy.

Plan and strategy

John Doe treated W London as an entertainment brand and created a six-month programme to generate anticipation among the media and the public ahead of the 'premiere', the hotel's opening in February 2011.

In September 2010, the PR team launched a competition in the style of The X Factor, to search for W Insiders, a specialist concierge role. Entrants had to prove they knew London inside out and were able to recommend cool places in different areas of the city.

Fashion designer James Small created a special belt for W Insiders to wear and launched it on menswear day at London Fashion Week. Celebrities including Noel Fielding, Pixie Geldof, Agyness Deyn and Jaime Winstone attended the launch.

The PR team also created a short film in advance of the opening, called Away We Stay, inspired by 60s film Blow Up, to give media and consumers their first glimpse of the hotel's bedrooms. The film featured Helena Christensen, David Gandy, Tom Hollander and W London staff.

During the opening week, the team created activity to link the hotel to film, fashion and music. Film legend Harvey Weinstein was placed as the first guest to stay at W London, and his company's post-Bafta party took place there. Guests included Colin Firth, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton.

For the fashion angle, the PR team asked Vogue's Andre Leon Talley and shoe designer Manolo Blahnik to discuss the special relationship between Times Square, the location of W's first hotel, and Leicester Square, the site of W's 40th. The event was attended by high-profile fashion figures including Vivienne Westwood.

John Doe also created London Calling, a series of music events in the four corners of London, to celebrate the hotel in the centre. Kate Moss took to a stage in north London to introduce a performance by a supergroup comprising past and present members of Oasis, The Who, The Clash and Kasabian. Cabaret entertainer Jonny Woo created an event in east London, Jade Jagger and gossip website Jezebel hosted an event in west London, while DJ group Horse Meat Disco hosted an event in the south.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign generated more than 500 pieces of coverage in print titles and online across travel, luxury and entertainment media. The PR team secured sustained coverage across all of W's key media targets.


W London was fully booked at launch. It has remained so three months later (the original target was 75 per cent). Starwood Global heralded the London launch as the most successful in the history of the brand.

SECOND OPINION - Paul Charles, CEO and founder, Perowne Charles Communications

This was an overt attempt to plant the new W in the minds of film and entertainment luvvies and, to some extent, it worked.

The campaign succeeded in attracting a range of talent to support the launch. Crucially, the momentum was sustained during the launch with a series of events that brought in new audiences from fashion and music.

I am not a huge fan of 'buying-in' celebrities for launches because the product should speak for itself and it often means that the product is not right if celebrities have to be used as a distraction.

However, I liked the creativity of the debate linking the two tourist magnets, Leicester Square and Times Square. It is not easy making Leicester Square attractive to high-spending hotel guests.

I would have liked to have seen more reviews in the launch phase about the product innovation. For example, the steam room in the Spa Suite and the Munchie Boxes, which define the rather wacky W philosophy. This would have helped to prolong the brand reach and ensure its successful launch coverage had staying power.

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