MCLEAN, VA: Hilton launched a review for an agency to provide communications support for the Hilton HHonors guest-loyalty program, confirmed Scott Carman, director of communications, customer marketing.
"We are in the final stage of a closed review of agencies," he stated via e-mail.
He would not provide additional details about the review.
Cohn & Wolfe CEO Donna Imperato said that the agency, which in the past had been AOR for the Hilton Hotels & Resorts brand for over 20 years, as well as AOR for the loyalty program, was approached less than a month ago to participate in the review, but declined.
In February, Hilton issued a review for its Hilton Hotels & Resorts business and selected Murphy O'Brien as its AOR. After that review, which included Cohn & Wolfe, HHonors went from a retainer account to a project basis at the agency.
“Based on our pitch earlier this year, the budget isn't there so we don't want to invest resources in the business,” said Imperato.
She added that there were additional factors that caused the agency to decline, alleging that the strategic platform Cohn & Wolfe presented in the Hilton Hotels & Resorts February review is now the basis for the company's "Go Hilton. Stay Everywhere." global advertising campaign.
She attributes the changing relationship with the brand to international management shakeups that took place a couple of years ago.
"Hilton has laid off half its employees and has made significant internal changes," she stated via e-mail. "It's only natural that they want a new partner. We had a great, long relationship with the long-term clients but C&W has moved on and so will Hilton."
A Hilton brand spokesperson responded: He said that Young & Rubicam created and executed the "Stay Hilton" campaign, which was "well in development" prior to the PR agency RFP process in February.
Regarding layoffs, he said, "We've had multiple new hires in the areas of marketing, including in communications, around the world. To say that we laid off half our employees is not accurate."
Cohn & Wolfe remains the AOR for Hilton's DoubleTree and Hampton brands, and Imperato noted that the company recently expanded the Hampton account to include digital.
Lucy Zepp, SVP at Murphy O'Brien, confirmed that the agency is not involved in the current review.