Hampton Inn’s Creative Search Has Just Begun

Brand hopes to hire an agency by year’s end

Hilton Hotels’ review of its Hampton Inn creative account is in it early stages, with the brand’s marketing executives considering a long list of potential agencies.

The next step is to select a handful of finalists. Hilton, which is eyeing both roster and non-roster shops for the assignment, hopes to complete the search by year’s end. Ideally, the hotel chain will select an agency by November, when incumbent Draftfcb’s 90-day wind down on the business ends.

Draftfcb, whose Chicago office has worked on Hampton Inn since 2002, is not defending. As a result, the agency will lose its last piece of Hilton business. At one point, the shop handled three of the chain’s brands: Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites and Doubletree. Annual revenue on the Hampton Inn account is estimated at $2 million. The brand’s media spending totaled nearly $19 million last year, up from more than $17 million in 2009, according to Nielsen.

On Friday, Draftfcb attributed the latest split to “philosophical differences,” adding, “The financial impact on our agency will be minimal.” In discussing the rational for the review, a Hampton Inn representative today cited the need for a new creative strategy for a brand that is “evolving (and) growing rapidly globally.”

Among the key decision-markers in the process are Judy Christa-Cathey, vp president of global marketing, and Monica Gaston, a senior director of global marketing.

Not in play are media buying, which is handled by OMD, or digital marketing, now at Organic. Each agency works across Hilton’s entire portfolio. Draftfcb’s Hilton divorce came just a week after S.C. Johnson ended its 58-year relationship with the agency.  That split, however, is much more painful, given that SCJ was a global account that supplied $50-60 million in revenue. The agency’s Chicago office steered the business and will have to make deep cuts as a result. The office now employs about 1,000 staffers.

Other top clients at Draftfcb Chicago include MillerCoors (Coors, Coors Light, Miller Lite), Kmart, Volkswagen (direct marketing) and Coca-Cola (shopper marketing). The office also works on Beiersdorf, Draftfcb’s largest global account.