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VisitBritain Puts U.S. Account in Play

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NEW YORK VisitBritain Americas, the marketing arm of the British Tourist Authority, has launched a review of its three-year, $1 million U.S. advertising contract, the client confirmed.

The client, which has worked with the Wolf Group since September 2001, is looking for a shop that will promote Britain as a tourist destination for Americans. The winning agency's first work will be VisitBritain's spring campaign, its largest annual effort. The authority advertises in spring to create awareness for Britain in advance of the summer months, the most popular time to travel to England among Americans, said Simon Mills, client director of marketing.

In 2003, VisitBritain used "The time, never better. The deals, never sweeter. The U.S. and Britain, never closer" as a tagline. The organization is projecting a 5 percent decline in the number of American tourists to Britain in 2003, down from 4 million in 2002.

"That has a lot to do with the Iraq War. There is a lot of pent up demand," Mills said. Security concerns "are a bit of a cloak. People are worried about their funds, but I think if the price is right, people will travel."

Given its limited budget, VisitBritain will likely choose an agency that can use its dollars creatively and prolifically, said Mills. The client's most recent campaign used a combination of online, above-the-line and some television advertising, he said.

Applications, which had to have been requested by Dec. 29, are due Jan. 9. VisitBritain will then select 15 contenders to submit creative work and financial information by the end of the month, Mills said. Five finalists will be selected in late February or early March, and a winner chosen in May following creative presentations.

Mills said that while Wolf held the New York State tourism account, travel-related experience is not necessarily a prerequisite for agencies.

"Sometimes you can get quite pigeonholed if you've done something before in the travel game and you think it works," Mills said. He added that shops from around the country, not just the East Coast, would be considered.

The authority posted its contract notice on the European Union Web site, www.OJEU.com, in November. Responses are due next week.