Updated: Doner Won’t Defend Expedia Biz

NEW YORK Doner will not defend in Expedia.com’s review of creative duties on its ad account, agency CEO Alan Kalter said today.

The Southfield, Mich., shop has handled the business since 2006 — a period marked by turnover in the client’s marketing and executive ranks. In November, Expedia named Eric Grosse the company’s new worldwide president, and in January Paul Leonard became vice president of brand marketing. “We’re thrilled that we were able to establish a gap in site traffic that put [Expedia] 30 percent ahead of the competition and we wish the new faces all the best,” Kalter said.

The client has confirmed launching a review and said it hopes to complete the process by the end of the second quarter.

In February, Expedia’s Web site had an estimated 14.7 million unique visits, according to Nielsen Online. By comparison, rivals such as Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com and Priceline.com that month had 11.8 million, 11.4 million and 9.1 million unique visits, respectively, per Nielsen.

Expedia’s major media spending totaled $59 million last year, down 28 percent from 2007’s total of $82 million, according to Nielsen. Those figures do not include online spending.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based client has hired Ark Advisors in New York to manage the search, sources said. Ark, which did not return calls, has already started to contact agencies and will issue a request for proposals in the next two weeks, according to sources.

Media duties, at independent TargetCast in New York, are not in play, the client said. TargetCast picked up the media account about a year ago in a straight shift from Doner, which also is an independent.

Doner has handled the business since 2006. Before that, the account was at Interpublic Group’s Deutsch/LA in Marina del Rey, Calif.

This story updates and replaces an item posted on March 31.