MOTEL GIANT HFS BEGINS $100 MIL MEDIA REVIEW: SEAGRAM ALSO STUDIES MEDIA UNBUNDLING AS TREND TO BOOST CLOUT ESCALATES

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HFS, the hotel and real estate conglomerate that also owns Avis Rent A Car System, is conducting a review of its media buying business that could see the winning agency pocketing more than $100 million in billings.

The company owns lodging outlets carrying such brand names as Ramada, Howard Johnson, Super 8, Days Inn and Travelodge. Its real estate holdings include Century 21, Coldwell Banker and ERA.

ROSTER AGENCIES ONLY

The review is limited to current roster ad agencies and media shops, including Zenith Media and Grey Advertising, both New York, and Western International Media, Los Angeles, said two executives with knowledge of the review. HFS spent $116 million in media in 1996, per Competitive Media Reporting. HFS did not return phone calls.

The review is the latest in a string of such actions intended to gain clout for advertisers with the media. Procter & Gamble Co., Glaxo Wellcome, Ford Motor Co. and Grand Metropolitan (see story on Page 6), to name a few, either plan or have made media buying consolidations in the last six months.

SEAGRAM MULLS CHANGE

Seagram Americas also is considering separating its $50 million in ad creative and media buying.

Arthur Shapiro, exec VP-marketing for Seagram Americas, told Advertising Age he is "studying whether or not to unbundle media from creative."

Currently, Seagram's three primary agencies- TBWA Chiat/

Day, Grey and Ogilvy & Mather, all New York-do both creative and media buying for the various brands to which they are assigned.

Though Mr. Shapiro said he is not personally disposed to independent media-buying services, "We'll likely look at some of those as well."

He added that it is also likely he'll hire a consultant to help him study the matter.

"One of the major issues we have to look at is if we are `disincentivizing' our agencies if we only use one or two of them for media," Mr. Shapiro said.

TREND STARTED IN EUROPE

"What we're seeing is a [continuation] of a trend .*.*. that really started in Europe," said Arnold Semsky, exec VP-worldwide media director at BBDO Worldwide, New York.

Mr. Semsky noted that there was some follow-the-leader quality to all the consolidations, especially in certain categories.

But more advertisers do seem to believe that media is a commodity, and that they can get much better efficiencies in the buying of time and space by consolidating their ad dollars at one shop.

"No doubt that is driving some of this," said Mr. Semsky.

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