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'Wal-Mart of Lodging' Relocates

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Extended Stay America has assigned its advertising account to the Leslie Agency.

The Greenville, S.C., shop prevailed in a quiet review that began last summer when the Miami-based hotel chain shifted its headquarters to Spartanburg, S.C.

Billings are undisclosed. ESA has been spending $3 million annually, according to CMR.

ESA vice president of marketing Mike Wilson narrowed his search from 12 agencies in the Carolinas and Georgia to two finalists. Incumbent What A Concept in Coral Gables, Fla., did not participate.

"They're a very good direct marketing agency," Wilson said of the incumbent. "But we needed someone closer to home that offered integrated capabilities."

Wilson would not identify the second finalist. "There was a hair between them," he said. "I went with chemistry."

Citing Leslie's re-search in the category, Wilson added that the agency's presentation showed a thorough analysis of the business.

"We're a contrarian company," he said "The hotel mentality tends to add amenities so they can raise rates, but our mission is to be the Wal-Mart of lodging."

ESA owns three chains: mid-priced Efficiency Studios, low-end Crossland Economy Studios and Studio Plus Hotels. The 6-year-old company operates 425 hotels in 40 states, charging an average rate of $249 per week, about half that of Marriott's Residence Inns and Holiday Inns' Staybridge Suites.

"We go after accounts that are category leaders, and ESA is one in its industry," said Leslie president and chief executive officer Carlos Jimenez. "Their profile suited us. It's a combination of hospitality and retail."

Print ads in USA Today, Business Travel News and Contract Professional will target frequent business travelers, said Wilson.

"Our niche is the road warrior—software installers, contractors, insurance adjusters," he said.

Leslie will also employ direct mail and Web advertising. New work will break in February.