Air alliance picks GS&P for $40 mil campaign

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Hotwire.com has enlisted Goodby, Silverstein & Partners as an ally in its war on Priceline.com.

The San Francisco agency will handle the $40 million advertising account for the alliance of major air carriers, which will offer unsold airline seats at a discount.

Hotwire is backed by United Airlines, American Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Continental Airlines, America West and US Airways. The online broker will challenge Priceline.com, a brand that has risen to prominence on the strength of its discount rates and a quirky ad campaign that stars William Shatner. Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston, handles those ads.

While Hotwire initially will sell seats only on flights offered by its investors, Priceline.com represents more than 30 airlines, including nearly every major U.S. carrier and some 20 international carriers.

Hotwire's chief marketing officer, John Hommeyer, cited chemistry as key to Goodby's win.

Hotwire has a slightly different business model than Priceline.com. With Priceline.com, consumers name a price they are willing to pay and then are committed to buying a seat on whichever carrier accepts that price. Hotwire will ask consumers to enter destinations and preferred departure times before offering an itinerary and price. Consumers then will have 30 minutes to decide on the deal.

TAKING THE RISK OUT

"We're trying to take a lot of the risk out and make it a more trusted experience," Mr. Hommeyer said.

Airlines are seeking a larger piece of online travel bookings as the field continues to grow. Last month, Orbitz was announced as the name for another site formed by a consortium of airlines led by United, Delta, Northwest and Continental. Orbitz, also set for a fall launch, will compete against Travelocity and Expedia to sell leisure airline tickets that aren't necessarily unsold inventory.

TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, will create the launch campaign for Orbitz.

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