Mullen Lands Orbitz $61 Million Account

Element 79 Was Also in Review for Travel Site's Business

By Published on .

CHICAGO ( -- Orbitz's $61 million creative advertising account is traveling to Wenham, Mass.-based Mullen.
The Interpublic Group of Cos. shop beat Omnicom Group's Element 79, Chicago, in a review for the travel website's account, which was formerly held by WPP Group's Young & Rubicam, Chicago. A Mullen spokesman confirmed the win.

Shootouts for travel accounts
Earlier this year, Mullen was a finalist in the review for Orbitz rival Expedia's $170 million account, which ultimately went to independent Doner, Southfield, Mich. It also recently battled for another Orbitz rival, Priceline, which went with independent Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in Sausalito, Calif.

The move comes as Orbitz appears to be taking market share away from rivals. Domestic gross bookings were up 30% in the first quarter and 43% in the second quarter. They are expected to increase to around 30% for the third quarter when those results are announced later this month.

But the online-booking sector is becoming increasingly competitive, as existing players such as Expedia and Travelocity have boosted spending, and travel-search aggregators such as Kayak and Sidestep have begun offering similar services. American Express recently announced plans for its own online-booking service. And the five major airlines that founded Orbitz in 2001 have seen traffic on their own websites climb, adding additional competition.

Upgrade includes marketing
Orbitz President Steven Barnhart, who took office in September, only a few months after the sale of website to the Blackstone Group, a major private-equity firm, said in an October interview with Crain's Chicago Business that his plan to grow Orbitz included upgrading overall marketing.

According to TNS Media Intelligence, Orbitz spent $60.9 million on measured media during 2005 and $30.7 million through the first six months of 2006.
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