Online Exclusive: Account Action

HILTON HOTELS PUTS AD ACCOUNTS INTO REVIEW

Involves Creative, Media Buying and Media Planning Work

By Published on .

SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- In a move to reinvigorate its aging brand, Hilton Hotels Corp. has placed portions of its advertising creative and media planning and buying accounts into review.
As competition picks up in the hotel industry, Hilton is upgrading its image.

Hilton is looking for an agency to handle creative for its Hilton brand and for its Hilton Family of Hotels umbrella group, including the HHonors guest reward program. Both programs have billings estimated at $32 million. Hilton's HHonors spent $2 million on its guest reward program last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Six different brands
Hilton also is looking for a media planning and buying agency for its Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hampton Hotels, Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites by Hilton hotels brands. Media spending on those properties is $87.5 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

A statement from the hotelier said it invited into the pitch its agency of seven years, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote Cone & Belding, Costa Mesa, Calif., and Chicago, which handles creative on the Hilton Brand and Hilton Family of Hotels umbrella group as well as media buying for all of the Hilton Family brands. The agency confirmed that it will defend the business.

The Hilton statement said FCB "continues to offer creative services to the Doubletree, Hampton and Homewood Suites by Hilton brands." Other incumbents with creative accounts for Hilton brands include Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, which handles Embassy Suites Hotels, and independent DGWB, Santa Ana, Calif., which won Hilton Garden Inn's account in February following a review.

Reenergize the brand
Hilton said in its news release that the review is being initiated as part of an "overarching program to reenergize the Hilton brand" by "reinforcing rigid standards at existing hotels," adding "the highest-quality upper upscale hotels -- mostly through new management and franchise agreements" with the opening in 2005 of almost a dozen hotels, and "delivering innovative products and services within guest rooms and throughout the hotels' public space."

Other company initiatives include "a concerted effort to enhance awareness among consumers that it comprises top brands with a shared philosophy but unique individual-brand attributes to accommodate a wide variety of travel occasions."

'Entering a new era'
Jeffrey Diskin, senior vice president for Hilton brand management, in a statement said Hilton is "entering a new era and it is critical that we are aligned with the brightest minds in the advertising world to help us connect with all generations of travelers in bold yet relevant ways." He said he is looking for "highly clever and emotive multi-faceted marketing."

In other words, Hilton is trying to address what one executive familiar with the company called "an old fashioned brand image, inconsistent products [i.e., quality of accommodations among its hotel groups], and not being as unique as trendier hotels."

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