TAMPA, FL: 1800hotels.com hired French/West/Vaughan as its global AOR to handle an $11 million integrated marketing account, following a competitive RFP process in the US. The agency will handle PR duties, as well as advertising and online marketing. The RFP follows the Dublin-based company's introduction in the US market last January.
“Planning is very much [focused on] overall brand awareness,” said Graham Peakin, CEO at 1800hotels.com. “At the moment, there can be confusion between us and Hotels.com. We would like to start to differentiate ourselves from them, and up to this point we haven't done that.”
He noted that PR activity, including social media, will account for about 50% of the account. However, advertising will most likely consume a majority of the $11 million budget due to the high cost of travel industry ads and online affiliate marketing.
He added that the company had initially sought out an AOR for PR only, considering around seven firms and narrowing those down to four. He would not disclose the agencies involved.
“As we looked at their business, we felt it was important that all strategies and disciplines should work together,” said Rick French, CEO at French/West/Vaughan. “They felt they could improve on things as part of the rest of the marketing mix.”
French also cited the agency's Tampa location, where 1800hotels.com has a US base, as a competitive advantage.
The company had originally handled most PR and marketing in-house. However, it had worked with Dublin PR agency AE Consulting when it updated its UK property name from 0800hotels.co.uk to 1800hotels.com, in late 2008, in an effort to better received as a US brand.
“When the same site was perceived as a UK company, it didn't do well,” he said. “We changed the [UK] name to '.com' which changed the perception.”
“Revenue has dramatically increased since last January,” he added.
French said that with the help from its Iprex affiliation, the agency will focus its efforts in the US, UK, and European markets, as well as other global markets he would not disclose.
“The bulk of it will be consumer engagement but there are certainly plans to continue to build their awareness among corporate travel planners and other segments that would make sense,” French said.
The agency currently has offices in Raleigh, NC, New York, and Tampa, FL.