CAMPAIGNS: Travel PR - Benjamin doesn't rest on its laurels

Client: The Benjamin Hotel (New York)

PR Team: KWE Associates (New York)

Campaign: Sleep Concierge

Time Frame: January-April 2001

Budget: $20,000

New York luxury hotel The Benjamin gave guests such a relaxing night's

sleep that they often asked to buy the beds they slept in. So, when

agency of record KWE Associates, New York, looked for a way to publicize

the hotel nearly two years after it opened, playing up sleep as the

"ultimate luxury" in our work-'round-the-clock society seemed the

obvious way to go.

The Benjamin, part of parent company Manhattan East Suite Hotels, opened

in April 1999, with good-quality rest as the central mission. Guests

received custom-made beds, an 11-selection pillow menu, soundproof

windows, white-noise machines, and aromatherapy.


KWE's strategy was to "remerchandise these amenities," says Maria

Andriano, vice president at the agency, enhancing them with a new sleep

guarantee: your money back if you don't get a good night's sleep. Plus,

head concierge Eileen McGill was dubbed "sleep concierge" and official

spokes-person to the press.

For McGill, the title was a logical addition. "I was spending 50% of my

time dealing with sleep problems and talking about mattresses and

pillows with guests," McGill recalls. She was also busily taking orders

for these products, which guests ordered for their homes. The challenge

was getting enough coverage for the remerchandising of services at a

hotel that had been open for so long. Positioning was everything.


"We went to The New York Times SundayStyles section first because a lot

of media people read that section, and we wanted to reach a larger

audience than we would in the Travel pages," Andriano remarks, adding

that she was able to use her connection with a Times freelancer to place

the piece.

When KWE mailed more than 100 media kits containing the Times story,

which was published January 14, coverage began to snowball.

KWE focused on dailies and TV morning news shows. Producers at broadcast

media received one of the Benjamin specialty pillows as part of the


Pictures of McGill fluffing pillows or consulting with guests over a

tray of milk and cookies were also sent to demonstrate the visual

strength of the story.

KWE also aimed at international travelers through British Airways' High

Life magazine, The Financial Times, and the Travel Channel. For these

pitches, "it was the jet-lag issue."

The angle that worked the best was the sleep-deprivation one. KWE and

McGill pointed to National Sleep Foundation statistics that say 63% of

American adults do not get eight hours of sleep. "It affects every part

of their life and is the first thing people will push aside," says

McGill. Her family is amused at her role because she can sleep anywhere,

while her husband suffers from occasional insomnia.

This angle - broad and familiar - struck a chord. On the Good Morning

America set, made up for the hosts to sample the pillows, Diane Sawyer

confessed on the air that she brings a Benjamin Hotel pillow on business


Each time a story hit, McGill was inundated with calls asking for sleep

advice - some 40% from outside the hotel, and many from journalists, she



In addition to the Times, stories appeared in USA Today, The Wall Street

Journal and all the major US market dailies, the German Elle magazine,

and the leading Swiss newspaper. Pieces ran on 20 TV programs including

the Weekend Today show and Today in New York. In addition, travel trades

such as Hotel Business and Travel Agent magazine featured the

story."We've picked up 9% market share from last year," says John Moser,

the Benjamin's general manager. "I'm pleased with that number in a down

hotel season - and the campaign has played into it."


The campaign resulted in a whole new profit center. So many guests asked

to buy specially designed beds or other sleep-inducing products that the

hotel is launching a catalog - Gifts and Indulgences - in late


KWE is also handling that project.

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