In brief: Finn forms travel tech group, Laura Ashley picks Halpern, plus wins for Mason Williams and Smoking Gun

Finn Partners launches dedicated travel tech group, Halpern wins Laura Ashley business, Spanish chef José Pizarro chooses Mason Williams and Smoking Gun outshoots three agencies in animal healthcare pitch.

Finn launches standalone travel tech group

Finn Partners has launched a dedicated travel technology group called TravelTech. Using staff from across Finn's global network and following its recent acquisition of UK travel and tourism specialist The Brighter Group, TravelTech is designed to help the group boost its share of the burgeoning PR and marketing travel tech sector, both in the UK and overseas. Debbie Flynn, The Brighter Group's managing partner, said that its combined Finn-Brighter network would help the "blended team" become "market leader within three years".

Laura Ashley selects Halpern for comms brief

Laura Ashley has appointed strategic comms agency Halpern. The home and fashion retail brand has briefed the agency to promote its array of products, as well as work on special projects, including publicising its 65th anniversary this year. Part of that will involve telling the story of Laura Ashley, whose roots extend back to 1953, when a Women's Institute exhibition at the V&A inspired Laura and Bernard Ashley to begin printing fabric.

Huntsworth buys New York media agency

Huntsworth - the Grayling, Red, Citigate and Huntsworth Health owner - has acquired a 75 per cent stake in AboveNation Media, the New York-based full-service media strategy, planning and buying agency for an initial price of $1.75m (£1.26m). The company said AboveNation Media will provide "integrated advertising technology solutions" across Evoke Group, which sits within the Huntsworth Health business and includes PR agency Tonic Life. AboveNation Media will continue to be led by CEO Steve Minichini and president John Lee, and will report to Evoke CEO Reid Connolly.

Mason Williams wins restaurant business

Spanish chef and restaurateur José Pizarro has selected Mason Williams to promote his three eponymous restaurants — José Tapas Bar, Pizarro Restaurant and José Pizarro Broadgate. The agency is working on a campaign that will span traditional and digital media and partnership programmes targeting London and the wider UK. The win adds to Mason Williams' growing restaurant portfolio, which includes Michelin-star duo Chris and Jeff Galvin and M Restaurants.

Smoking Gun wins MSD consumer and trade PR

Smoking Gun has been appointed by global, US-based animal healthcare brand MSD to deliver a multi-channel consumer and trade campaign targeting UK farmers and pet owners. The agency picked up the account after pitching against three other agencies in December. Campaigns will include activity around Pet Diabetes Month, and will promote MSD's products and services aimed at preventing and treating diseases affecting farm and domestic animals.

Yesterday's briefs: Powerboat P1 Management picks Champions, plus hires at Brevia, Iris and We are Social

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