Starwood Taps Venables Bell & Partners as Creative AOR for Sheraton, Westin

Independent Shop Won the Global Accounts After a Three-Month Review

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Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown Hotel
Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown Hotel Credit: Sheraton
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Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has selected Venables Bell & Partners to serve as global creative agency of record for its Sheraton and Westin brands, following a competitive, three-month review.

Venables Bell & Partners stood out in the review, which was led by Avidan Strategies, because of its creativity, flexibility and chemistry with the Starwood team, said Bob Jacobs, VP-brand management for Sheraton and Westin in North America. He said the shop's work with REI to turn the brand's decision to bow out of Black Friday madness into an empowering message for consumers with the "#OptOutside" campaign was impressive, especially since it didn't rely on TV.

Sheraton and Westin do some TV advertising, but Mr. Jacobs said the brands will work closely with Venables Bell & Partners to "decide if it's right for either brand." He added that more than half of the brands' media spending is on digital, but he's open to all mediums because "it's about the idea and where it best plays and speaks to our audience." Sheraton and Westin are both hoping to launch new campaigns by the fourth quarter of this year or early 2017, said Mr. Jacobs.

Prior to Venables Bell & Partners, Sheraton did not have a creative agency on retainer. The brand most recently worked with Marcel, New York on its $100 million marketing campaign, "Where Actions Speak Louder," last September.

BBH served as Westin's creative agency of record for the last five years. A BBH spokesperson previously told Ad Age that the agency was "proud of our partnership with Westin," but decided not to participate in the review.

Westin has "nothing bad to say" about its partnership BBH, said Mr. Jacobs, adding that the brand "was looking for a change in the campaign and modernizing" the work.

Mr. Jacobs said Venables Bell & Partners – No. 10 on Ad Age's 2016 A-List – is tasked with continuing the momentum around Sheraton 2020, the 10-point plan launched last year to bring the brand back into the spotlight. That plan included a $100 million marketing campaign that is expected to run through the end of 2017.

Venables partner Paul Birks-Hay said the agency is focused on bringing attention to the fact that Sheraton has been "a pillar of the industry and a pioneer for years."

For Westin, Mr. Jacobs said the shop will work with the brand around its healthy living messages because trends show that "people are seeking active lifestyles and wellness-focused travel experiences."

Mr. Birks-Hay said the agency is looking forward to working with Westin, which is "an innovator and a challenger," and help them really own the wellness space.

Last month, Westin launched an effort to revitalize its brand across the globe with a new identity that brings an energetic, wellness-oriented approach to center stage, featuring a more lively color palette, vibrant photography and apothecary-style fonts. Westin invested $1 million in its new brand identity, which it produced internally.

Will McGinness, executive creative director at Venables Bell & Partners, said Sheraton and Westin both have "ambition to create brands that elevates above category conventions."

"When you look at a lot of the marketing in this category, it's a sea of sameness, and they want to go beyond that," added Mr. McGinness.

Budget information on the accounts were not disclosed.

Marriott International is in the process of buying Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. for $12.2 billion to create the world's largest hotel company.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed quotes of Paul Birks-Hay to Venables Bell & Founders Partner Paul Venables.