Choice Hotels taps McKinney as creative agency of record

The hotel franchisor, whose brands include Quality Inn and Clarion, previously worked with McCann

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Sleep Inn Oklahoma City
Sleep Inn Oklahoma City Credit: Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels — with a portfolio of brands that includes Quality Inn and Comfort Hotels — has tapped Durham, North Carolina-based McKinney as its creative agency of record.

The hotel franchisor, which has more than 6,900 hotels in sectors ranging from upscale to economy in more than 40 countries and territories, previously worked with IPG's McCann for its creative remit. McCann said it mutually decided to end its relationship with the client earlier this year and did not participate in the review, which was run by Select Resources International.

McKinney will run the account — including strategy and creative development for broadcast, digital, social, radio, print and out-of-home for the Choice master brand as well as its individual hotel brands — out of its Durham headquarters. The agency plans a new multi-channel campaign to debut for its new client later this year.

The company's individual brands include Ascend Hotel Collection, Cambria Hotels, Comfort Hotels, Sleep Inn, Quality Inn, Clarion, Clarion Pointe, Mainstay Suites, Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, WoodSpring Suites, Econo Lodge, and Rodeway Inn.

Brent Bouldin, VP of marketing and customer acquisition at Choice Hotels, said the brand hopes to build a brand platform that can live for multiple years and that can bend with the economy. Choice will be able to react to the ups and downs of the travel industry by pushing price over premium experiences -- or vice versa -- without having to start from scratch every time.

Gretchen Walsh, managing director of McKinney Durham, adds that "job No. 1" is creating more awareness of Choice as a brand. Though consumers may know of Quality Inn or its other individual brands, she says Choice's consumer awareness may not be equal to that of its competitors.

Third-party booking sites like Expedia and Travelocity have been a thorn in the side of brand name chains. To retaliate, some hotel chain brands have been urging consumers to buy directly, promising extra benefits or extra loyalty points. Hilton, for instance, doubled down on its "book direct" messaging with a new marketing push with actress Anna Kendrick in September, wanting consumers to book direct for stays in order to build repeat visits and capture data from its loyalty programs.

Bouldin says Choice will continue to work with Havas Media for its media agency remit.

Choice Hotels Intl Inc. spent an estimated $28 million in measured media in the U.S. in 2017, according to Kantar Media.

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