When M&C Saatchi bought a third of SS+K late last year, it gave domestic player SS+K access to overseas markets via M&C's 21 offices outside the United States. Now, the two agencies have an assignment to test that partnership.
SS+K has landed global creative responsibilities on Marriott International luxury brand JW Marriott, which has 70 locations in eight regions, including Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East. And while SS+K led the pitch for the business, the New York shop put forth M&C as a partner to adapt and distribute ads overseas. Globally, JW Marriott spends up to $30 million on marketing each year, according to a recent job posting for a director of brand marketing.
For M&C, the win proves that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. For years, the shop tried on its own to become a viable player in New York but failed to achieve critical mass. So, rather than re-launch itself for the third time there, the shop invested in SS+K, which has about 60 staffers and also works for the likes of E*Trade, HBO and Jackson Hewitt.
The JW Marriott assignment came after a review in which there were a handful of other finalists. Joanne Davis Consulting in New York managed the search.
In a statement, Mara Hannula, vp of global brand marketing on JW Marriott, said SS+K can help Marriott "elevate marketing capabilities in luxury as JW becomes a more predominant brand." SS+K partner Lenny Stern, in turn, described the hotel as an "ascending brand in a category [that's] ripe for disruption."
Beyond advertising, JW Marriott has upgraded its properties in the past few years via strategic partnerships with Aromatherapy Associates, Treasury Wine Estates and nutritionist Keri Glassman. JW also has expanded its footprint. And now the hotel is rethinking its marketing, as it looks to distinguish itself from rivals like Starwood's W and Hilton's Conrad.
As lead agency, SS+K succeeds Team One, a unit of Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi that continues to handle Marriott's Ritz-Carlton advertising. Media responsibilities weren't part of the review and remain at WPP Group's MEC, which works across all Marriott properties, including JW, Renaissance, Courtyard and Marriott Hotels & Resorts.