The W factor wows London, John Doe Communications

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

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


- 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 divided the hotel into four cultural zones to reflect the four quarters of London (north, south, east and west). Kate Moss introduced a 'north London' super-group created especially for the premiere, called 'The W's', comprising past and present members of Oasis, The Who, The Clash and Kasabian. Cabaret entertainer Jonny Woo created an event in the 'east', Jade Jagger and gossip website Jezebel hosted an event the 'west', 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 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.


Samantha Cunnington, Senior account manager, John Doe

The key to opening W London was positioning the hotel as an entertainment brand, not just a travel destination.

In the six months before launch, we worked with key influencers to develop unique happenings specifically designed to reflect W London's passion points: fashion, entertainment and design.

By working with respected talent, the content created was not only credible, but also spoke directly to the audiences we set out to engage. It was an important part of the campaign and enabled W London to live and breathe before it officially opened, painting a picture of what was to come.

The result was a huge cross-section of coverage generated through a solid press office function. In addition to securing travel reviews across all key titles, the launch campaign achieved more than 450 pieces of coverage across fashion, entertainment and lifestyle media.

Through PR alone, W London opened with 100 per cent occupancy, well above the target. The team has continued to deliver engaging, creative happenings and content to keep W London front of mind, resulting in the hotel ranking as one of the highest-viewed websites in Starwood's EMEA region.

These happenings include the (W)riter's Library with Damian Barr and authors including Bret Easton Ellis and Naomi Alderman; the creation of bespoke WOW Bikes with Benedict Radcliffe and designed by influencers such as Paloma Faith and Ron Arad; and the celebration of what's new in fashion with London Fashion Next.


- The hotel ran at about 90 per cent occupancy during its first month. It continues to run with an average occupancy of nearly 75 per cent.

- RevPAR figures for W London have been 61 per cent higher than budgeted.

- The Wyld bar has sold more than 95,000 cocktails.

- Away We Stay, a short film starring David Gandy and Helena Christensen, and commissioned by W London in November 2010 to mark the impending launch of the hotel, has been viewed more than 103,000 times online.

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