CHICAGO: Orbitz, the long-awaited airline ticket search site, fired
up its launch last week spending half a million dollars on a massive PR
The PR team led by vice president of corporate affairs Carol Jouzaitis
organized a media blitz Monday, June 4 with chairman/CEO Jeffrey Katz
appearing on both CNBC and CNNfn.
Jouzaitis said: "We did media interviews all day Monday, a mid-day
Webcast and a radio media tour with (broadcast commentator) Valarie
D'Elia who is on our consumer advisory board."
Orbitz is said to be allocating a huge portion of its dollars 145
million start-up cost to marketing. Jouzaitis confirmed the dollars
500,000 launch spend on PR, adding, "We did it on a shoestring." The
annual PR spend is not known.
The launch was handled by Ketchum, which was hired in January for
consumer PR. Until then, Orbitz had been using Jouzaitis' former
employer Chicago PR agency, Kemper Lesnick Communications. Ketchum's
sister ad agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day handled the launch advertising.
Ketchum said it was focusing on customer service for the launch and the
period right after to distinguish it from rivals such as Travelocity.com
and Microsoft's Expedia. Coverage included mentions of plans to offer
e-mail warnings of delays.
Orbitz scored a largely positive feature in The Wall Street Journal on
June 1, but reporters from most other outlets had questions about the
possibility of antitrust issues raised by its ownership. Orbitz is
backed by American Airlines, Continental, United, Delta and
The site hired Burson-Marsteller in August 2000 to deal with the
regulatory issues which have dogged the site since the airlines agreed
to launch the service back in 1999. The Department of Justice and 20
state attorney generals have been looking into the competitive issues
raised by the fear that Orbitz will offer fares not available
A further blow came last month when Southwest Airlines sued Orbitz,
claiming that the site listed fares at a price higher than was available
at Southwest's own site. The case continues. These, and other unknown
factors, delayed the launch of Orbitz, which was expected to debut last
Jouzaitis, a former Chicago Tribune journalist, has hired two staffers
to work in-house. They are Dawn Doty and Stacey Spencer.