Universal McCann Wins Hotwire’s Media

LOS ANGELES Discount travel site Hotwire.com has consolidated its offline media planning and buying accounts at Universal McCann, the agency said.

The Interpublic Group shop in San Francisco won the account following a review that began in mid-June. The other contenders were undisclosed. Hotwire will spend approximately $40 million on ads this year, said Ty Shay, vice president of marketing for the San Francisco-based client. He declined to disclose how much of that will be spent on offline media.

Initiative Media North America previously had the offline media buying account. Media planning was with DeVito/Verdi in New York, which retains the creative portion of the account. Hotwire handles online creative and media in-house.

The company put the business in review to “connect planning to buying to more effectively reach consumers,” said Shay. He added: “We were impressed with Universal McCann’s strategic approach to planning, and particularly, their desire to understand our business and our target consumer, and their focus on driving results.”

This is Universal McCann S.F.’s first win under Karen Polsky, senior vice president and managing director. “This is an area online that still continues to grow and is incredibly relevant to consumers,” Polsky said. “Hotwire represents a special blend of travel and retail. It’s an interesting challenge to find [the target consumer] and connect with them.”

Hotwire is hoping to increase its ad spend in 2004, said Shay. While the 3-year-old company has primarily done radio advertising, it broke its first TV spots in June. Those ads were tagged, “Fly. Sleep. Eat. Cheap.” They included a spot in which a father encourages his son to jump into a hotel pool. The boy exclaims, “Look Dad, a quarter!” and the father jumps in, fully clothed, to retrieve it.

Universal McCann has approximately 50 employees in San Francisco. The shop also works with clients such as Microsoft, Del Monte, California Table Grapes, Southcorp wines and KNTV.