Heat's On: Hotwire Names New Agency

Travel Site Taps San Francisco Indie Heat In Push To Win 'Share of Culture'

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Still from Tiny Rebellion's Hotwire ad
Still from Tiny Rebellion's Hotwire ad

Indie agency Heat in San Francisco has been named the new agency of record for discount travel site Hotwire.

Heat will handle strategy, account planning and creative in media including TV and digital. Hotwire has company also switched media agencies, tapping Interpublic's UM for media planning and digital buying for the U.S. In Canada, UM will partner with Initiative, also part of Interpublic's Media Brands, for media planning and digital buying; MDC's Assembly will continue to handle broadcast and direct-response TV buying for U.S. and Canada. The review was led by AAR Partners.

Heat's John Elder
Heat's John Elder

"Hotwire is the type of brand challenge that Heat lives for: passionate, strategic clients making smart product improvements to enable more people to travel more often," said John Elder, president of Heat. "We have the opportunity to tell the Hotwire story in a surprising way to break though the commoditized [online-travel agency] category, and by partnering with UM, we know we'll be reaching the right audience in innovative ways."

Heat's work includes the Madden NFL game franchise. The campaign Heat created for Madden NFL 25 was given Ad Age's Small Agency Integrated Campaign of the year, Gold, last year -- one of the top honors in the Small Agency Awards.

"We are extremely excited to be adding such a dynamic client like Hotwire to UM's prestigious list of clients," said Kasha Cacy, U.S. president, UM. "We are also thrilled to be working hand-in-hand with Heat to bring our world-class media planning, buying and measurement tools to bear in driving business momentum for Hotwire."

A campaign from the new agency is slated to launch in the next few months. The company in June launched a $40 million push created by Santa Monica, Calif. agency Tiny Rebellion.

The travel-site category is becoming a competitive one, with brands like Trivago spending an estimated $108.6 million on TV ads in 2014, according to iSpot. Expedia is the second-largest advertiser in that space, with close to $106 million in TV spending last year. Hotwire is the third-largest spender, with and estimated $92 million in TV spending in 2014.

"Online travel is a category that's very advertising-driven, and when brands spend a ton of money, it drives business," said Mr. Elder. "Hotwire came to us and asked if there was way they could compete rather than just participate in the ad spending arms race. We believe there is an effective way that captures share of culture, rather than simply share of voice — it's an approach that has proven successful in high spending categories."

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CORRECTION: Based on information provided by the agency, an earlier version of this article said Heat will oversee strategy, account planning and creative across all media. The agency will handle TV and digital media, but will not lead mobile or social media efforts.

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