Orbitz Launches Media Agency Review

Considers Mullen's JetBlue Win a Conflict

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Orbitz Worldwide is on the hunt for a new media agency two weeks after its current media shop, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen, added an account the online travel website deems a conflict.

"Because we felt that JetBlue was a conflict, we decided to put Mullen's MediaHub business up for a closed review and are in the process of considering several replacement agencies," an Orbitz representative told Ad Age. "We are not accepting unsolicited proposals."

Mullen representatives declined to comment.

Boston-based Mullen was tapped as the lead creative and media agency for JetBlue after a five-month-long, hotly contested review against shops such as Omnicom Group's Goodby Silverstein & Partners and Tribal DDB. Mullen replaces WPP's JWT, which handled creative duties for the budget airline since 2005, and JetBlue's media agency, JWT sibling Mediacom.

In terms of spending, the JetBlue account is equal to about half the marketing budget of Orbitz, but is a far sexier brand.

According to Kantar Media, Orbitz has devoted between $50 million to $60 million to measured media in recent years, though that seems low compared to marketing costs reported as part of its first quarter 2010 earnings. The company posted marketing expenses for the first quarter alone of $57.7 million, saying the costs were made up primarily of search and banner advertising, TV, radio and print.

In March, Orbitz named Omnicom's BBDO as its lead creative shop at the conclusion of a review process. Before that, production house Trailer Park handled creative work for just a matter of months. The changes come under Orbitz's new VP-brand marketing, Deborah Italiano, who formerly was at Travelocity.