MCLEAN, VA: Hilton Worldwide has hired Santa Monica-based Murphy O'Brien as its global AOR for the Hilton Hotels brand, following a restructuring that combined its US and international marketing groups.
The agency, selected following a competitive review, will lead Hilton's global PR strategy, but currently focuses on execution within the US.
“Hilton has been through a period of reorganization that has given us for first time in a long time a global marketing focus,” said Andrew Flack, VP of global brand marketing for Hilton Hotels. “It gives us a chance to tell a new story.”
The company which has hotels in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East, in addition to the US, wants to tell a story of “continued global growth,” he added. "We're still opening around 30 hotels a year in great locations and entering new countries."
In addition, it will look to focus on a consumer PR message and strategy, promoting the brand's resorts.
“One of our priorities going forward is to tell the leisure and resorts story better,” he said. “Our story tended to be more of a business travel story.”
The company had initially issued an RFI to 20 agencies in November, and it narrowed the list down to five agencies to participate in an RFP process. Though Flack would not disclose the other agencies involved, he confirmed that Cohn & Wolfe (C&W), Hilton Hotels' outgoing US AOR of more than 10 years, participated in the RFI.
According to an e-mail statement from Donna Imperato, CEO of C&W, the agency will continue to work on projects for other Hilton brands. The agency is currently AOR for the Hampton and DoubleTree brands, as well as the Hilton HHonors frequent guest program.
"Hilton Hotels is one of our most important clients," she stated. "Our focus this year is on Hampton and DoubleTree, and we've worked with Hilton on a branding project this year."
Lucy Zepp, VP at Murphy O'Brien, explained that the agency will be handling internal PR, in addition to corporate and consumer PR for the brand, and it will be working closely with the brand's other marketing agencies.
“They were looking for, based on the request, an agency to help build the brand and really strategize on where Hilton was going, and to help tell that story with the media,” she said. “It just turned out to be good fit.”
Flack explained that overall the brand is placing greater emphasis on PR in its marketing mix, “particularly because of that commitment to leisure and resort.”
“It's so much driven by word-of-mouth and personal recommendation,” he said. “PR has a great role to play.”
The company recently launched a redesigned online newsroom as well.
*Updated: February 17, 2010, 3:20 p.m. EST