Hyatt Decentralizes Global Digital Efforts With Support From PHD

Omnicom Shop Will Strategize With Local Hotels as Hospitality Chain Eyes New Markets

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Hyatt has started to decentralize its digital strategy as it aims to better understand and target its customers in local hotel markets. The impetus? Search data.

"There was no formal study, but in reviewing search data, we began to see patterns emerging in how consumers research and plan their travel online, with a heavy skew toward local information," said Tim Burger, Hyatt's director-global internet marketing.

"For example, one in five searches on Google.com is for local information, and one in three Google searches on mobile devices is for local information," Mr. Burger said."We realized we needed to match the information we offer with consumer demand and provide and distribute relevant, timely information about our hotels and activities, as well as dining and entertainment content on various digital platforms."

Hyatt would not disclose the value of the account.

In decentralizing this piece of its business, the Chicago-based hotel brand decided to consolidate within Omnicom's PHD, which is also its U.S. media shop. Hyatt previously handled most of its international digital efforts in its Chicago headquarters, with regional support.

The agency's scope will be SEO, paid SEM, display-media buying and social marketing, which could involve working with local communities. Content development and promotion will also be a priority, especially via Hyatt.com.

"What we want PHD to do is work with local hotels. They can help our understanding of what's happening at that hotel or in a particular area, and take that information and content and push it out to various digital platforms," Mr. Burger said. "It could be a social-media platform or working with search engines, which today are readily indexing fresh content."

The move comes as Hyatt eyes new markets. Its latest earnings release said that as of Sept. 30 the company had executed new management or franchise contracts for more than 150 hotels across all brands. They "represent potential entry into several new countries and expansion into many new markets in which the company is underrepresented," it said, adding that about 70% of the are outside North America.

According to a recent Hyatt blog post, management agreements have been signed for eight additional full-service hotels in China, bringing the total number of announced Hyatt-branded hotels under development in China to 32.

Digital, which said Mr. Burger said "continues to move up the marketing hierarchy," will probably be critical in promoting such an expansion. But better research and customized marketing are also important in a competitive hotel category that , according to a report by Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, could be nearing a saturation point in China because of overdevelopment.

PHD, which recently won the global Sony Ericsson account, will make it a priority to have people on the ground who specialize in local media vendors, even if it means reassigned staff from other markets, said Edward Foster, PHD's managing director-international search. Managing search engines outside the U.S. is difficult if you're not in the markets, he added.

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