Travel Site Kayak Has New CMO to Go With Bigger Ad Budget

Spending-Averse Online Player Could Boost Marketing to $100M Mark to Compete in Crowded Field

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CHICAGO ( -- Travel website Kayak has hired a new chief marketing officer, and he's seeking a creative agency to handle the brand with an expected marketing budget of up to $100 million.

Kayak later this week will name IMG Worldwide CMO Robert J. Birge as its top marketer, a spokeswoman confirmed. And the first order of business for Mr. Birge, previously a managing director at TBWA/Chiat/Day in New York, will be finding a new agency.

Kayak dabbled in ads from New York boutique Brooklyn Brothers in 2006, but it has generally eschewed big-spending, above-the-line advertising such as TV and print in its four-year history. The site, which bills itself as the world's largest travel search engine, aggregates fares and rates from other travel sites, such as Orbitz. It derives its revenue from advertising as opposed to travel-purchase fees.

The spokeswoman wouldn't comment on the company's spending plans, but she said that the winning agency have to ramp up the site's awareness. It currently receives between 35 million and 40 million searches each month, despite having low brand recognition, she said.

Getting notice in the travel-portal category is more expensive than it used to be, thanks to aggressive spending by the likes of Expedia, Orbitz,, Travelocity and others. But many of those marketers have been scrambling of late to better target consumers during this downturn.

Expedia's advertising account is currently up for review, and last year swapped Mr. Birge's former employer, TBWA, for the Chicago office of Y&R.

Mr. Birge joined IMG in 2006 as CMO of its sports and entertainment group. A year later, he was promoted to worldwide CMO, reporting directly to IMG Chairman-CEO Ted Forstmann.

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