Starwood Prepares for Vacancy

The souring relationship between Starwood Hotels & Resorts and DDB may open the door for other agencies, sources said last week.

The client is said to be dissatisfied with the shop, which works on the Shera -ton and Westin accounts and the Preferred Guest loyalty program.

One source said the White Plains, N.Y.-based client is readying a questionnaire for the business DDB handles. Another said Starwood has been open to recent inquiries made by the shop’s competitors.

Starwood’s other brands include Four Points, W Hotels and the St. Regis, handled by other shops.

DDB won the account in 1999 after a review that included Wieden + Kennedy, Young & Rubicam, Bates, Weiss Stag liano Partners, and Shevack/Wolf, all based in New York. In that review, no consultant was used.

DDB’s campaign for Sheraton is tagged, “Who’s taking care of you?” Its Westin campaign uses the line, “Who are you sleeping with?”

Sources said that DDB is working on new ideas, but the status of new campaigns was unclear.

The strain between Starwood and DDB, however, goes back even longer, one source said.

In March, agency executives presented ideas to the client in a meeting attended by Starwood chairman and CEO Barry Sternlicht. One source said the DDB team unwittingly presented a tagline similar to one being used by a competitor.

Sternlicht interrupted the presentation to point out that the line was similar to that being used at the time by the Four Seasons Hotels: “50 hotels, 22 countries, one philosophy.”

An embarrassed DDB team ditched its presentation and went to a backup campaign, sources said. Starwood executives did not return calls seeking comment and DDB New York executives could not be reached.