Orbitz Expected to Shift Accounts to Carat, Fusion

Orbitz, an online tra vel service backed by several major airlines, is expected to shift its media account to Carat USA and its creative to Fusion Idea Lab, sources said.

Creative and media buying and planning were previously at TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York, which won the business in February 2000 following a review. In a statement from president Carl Johnson, the agency acknowledged it has split with the client.

“We are proud of the work that we have done for Orbitz,” Johnson said. “We helped name them, we guided their positioning as a late entry into the online travel market.”

A representative at Orbitz in Chicago declined to confirm the account moves but said, “Our needs have shifted, and we are evaluating alternatives to a full-service agency.”

Officials at Carat and Fusion, both headquartered in Chicago, declined comment.

Sources said TBWA\C\D and Orbitz have been “duking it out” over certain marketing issues since late last year. The shop had not produced new creative work since Orbitz launched in June 2001.

The company, which provides an online travel search engine and booking service, is backed by American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines and United Airlines. Advertising continues to carry the TBWA\C\D-fashioned tag, “Proudly created by the world’s leading airlines.”

Orbitz initially said it planned to spend $100 million on marketing efforts last year, but that level was never reached. CMR recorded about $15 million in spending through October of last year. The backing airlines have struggled financially, leading to the downturn.

TBWA\C\D’s first work included print ads that took the form of 1960s-style posters. TV followed, featuring grass-skirt-clad Hawaiian women standing next to computer monitors on the beach.