Best Western Turns to Gotham to Deliver Brand Push

Hotel Chain Cites Tough Market, Need for Digital Capabilities in Selecting New Agency of Record

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Best Western International has selected Interpublic Group of Cos.' Gotham to replace ISM as its North American agency of record after a pitch.

The account shift follows an agency review Phoenix-based Best Western called this summer. Several shops presented ideas, but the final shootout was between the incumbent, whose clients are primarily in the travel and tourism sector, and New York-based Gotham. ISM, based in Boston, had handled advertising for the hotel chain since 2006.

Media duties, handled by Interpublic's Initiative, were not in play.

Karmela Gaffney, managing director of advertising and e-commerce for the hotel chain, said Best Western's decision to re-examine its advertising was driven largely by the pressure in the hospitality sector.

"The marketplace is incredibly competitive right now and effective advertising is one of the brand's primary deliverables to our membership," Ms. Gaffney said. As a membership association rather than a franchise, independent owner-operators of Best Western hotels who join the brand expect strong advertising that will drive revenue to their properties.

"Gotham was chosen because they take a strategic approach to creative," Ms. Gaffney said. "They have strong digital capabilities, and they can help us evolve and enhance the Best Western brand." She noted the agency is currently sharing creative ideas with members and meeting owner-operators.

Unlike most marketers in the space, the hotel chain, which bills itself the largest in the world -- it has more than 4,000 locations in 80 countries, more than half of them in North America -- hasn't drastically cut its marketing budget amidst the recession.

Best Western is expected to devote $45 million to $50 million to advertising this year, up from about $42 million in 2008, and $32 million in 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence. In the past, the chain has been known to spend half or more of its media dollars online.

At Gotham, Best Western joins a roster that includes Hitachi America, Maybelline, Sony Ericsson and Lufthansa.

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