CAMPAIGNS: Product Launch - New showerhead off to a clean start

Client: Westin Hotels & Resorts (a Starwood Hotels and Resorts brand)

PR Team: In-house and Ted, Inc.

Campaign: Heavenly Bath

Time Frame: May 22, 2001

Budget: Under $300,000

Westin Hotels & Resorts wanted to get people as excited about its

bathrooms as they are about its bedrooms. Buzz was generated when the

company launched its Heavenly Bed in 1999 by letting executives test

them out right on Wall Street. This time, however, Westin was rolling

out its unique double showerhead in 32,000 rooms at 70 hotels across the

country. A curved shower rod for extra room, Brazilian cotton bath

sheet, and other accessories were added to emphasize the spa motif.

The first time around, it was easy to get people to crash out on a comfy

bed in the middle of the day. But now Westin had to find people who were

willing to get wet.


"We firmly believe that PR generates more buzz than advertising,"

maintains KC Kavanagh, VP of PR for Starwood Hotels and Resorts; indeed,

no advertising accompanied the launch of the dream-clean feature.

The campaign was devised solely to attract camera crews, photographers,

and ink from across the country. Westin also wanted to highlight the

sensual, sexy, playful side of the dual showerhead. "We wanted to do

something fun and a bit irreverent because we felt it would fit the

brand well," Kavanagh explains. "Something over the top to grab


As the showerheads were being launched officially in New York City, it

was felt that a really outrageous approach would be required to cut

through the clutter and get attention.


The PR teams decided to hold the main launch event in New York, with

local events in key markets across the country around the same time.

With the help of New York PR firm Ted, Inc., Westin constructed a shower

in New York City's Bryant Park, and invited passersby to strip down to

their underwear and try out the shower. Participants were judged on

their "performance" in the shower. About 30 people jumped in for a

splash, and the winner was given a luxury vacation.

But there was one hitch: After a steady stream of unbroken sunshine, the

rain poured down on New York that day, necessitating the quick setup of

a tent, and dampening some of the spirits. Still, a few hundred people

stopped to watch the two shows.

And it certainly was sexy. "One girl did take her top off spontaneously,

which was not in my very organized PR plan," Kavanagh says. "I had to

walk out of the tent at that point, but the crowd loved it. In

retrospect, we should have planned it that way."


The downpour certainly hurt attendance, but coverage of the public

shower was impressive. USA Today was given an exclusive because of its

high readership among business travelers, and the paper ran two articles

with a follow-up in June. The New York Post and local television

stations also covered the event, and articles about the new shower

appeared in The Denver Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Houston

Chronicle, among others. Even shock jock Howard Stern mentioned the

promotion on his radio show.


Some Westin locations that have not yet received the new showerheads are

planning local events to coincide with the upgrades. However, the

celestial theme in Westin's PR program was maintained, as the brand,

along with two other Starwood hotels - Sheraton and Four Points - went

on to launch the Heavenly Crib in August 2001. The "safer" crib was

unveiled in Central Park in New York along with the world's largest

crib, a baby food buffet, a baby bottle bar, and snow cones all round.

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