Arun Sudhaman 21 Mar 2012 // 12:00AM GMT
LONDON--Travel website Expedia is poised to begin a search for a lead strategic agency to coordinate all of its European PR needs, putting several current local market incumbents on alert.
The website currently works with GolinHarris in the UK, FischerAppelt in Germany, Edelman in Italy, and Hopscotch in France. The selection of a lead agency will not impact local firms in the Netherlands, the Nordics, and Spain.
However, Expedia senior PR and social media manager Jill Lloyd told the Holmes Report that it will now seek a London-based firm that can handle strategic coordination across these four countries, as well as in-market local activity.
“What we are trying to drive is the efficiencies of having a level of strategic coordination from London, but also combine that with a strong local focus,” said Lloyd.
Lloyd said that Expedia has so far identified around 10 potential contenders, including those incumbents that “satisfy the selection criteria”. That list will be whittled down ahead of pitches at the end of April.
The review is part of Expedia’s efforts to create some distance between itself and the numerous competitors that dot the online travel booking market in each of its European markets. After carrying out a research project two years ago, Lloyd said it became apparent that many people find it hard to distinguish between the different players, which include such names as Opodo, Lastminute.com, and various aggregators.
“We need to give people a reason to come back to us and really clarify where Expedia differs from the other players on the market,” said Lloyd. “That’s where we are also committed to building loyalty with our customers.”
The consumer-focused brief also seeks an agency that has an awareness of SEO and social media, although it will not affect We Are Social’s role as Expedia’s lead strategic social media firm. A strong technology heritage is also important, said Lloyd, reflecting Expedia’s purchase of mobile development company Mobiata in 2010, and increased investment in the website’s technology platform.
Expedia is also hoping to broaden awareness of its ‘People-Shaped Travel’ marketing platform, which launched last year. The company views the effort, which relates to co-creation of products and services with customers, as a central component of its drive to differentiate the brand from competitors.
“We feel the time is right to move into a new era of travel,” explained Lloyd. “We firmly believe in working with our customers to better understand their needs, and to drive more personalised, tailored travel solutions with them.”
“That encompasses everything from the way they want to book, through to using social media tools to gather information, and using some of our social channels to provide inspiration,” she added. “People are no longer just travelling for the sake of seeing a new place, but they are very much looking for new experiences.”
Lloyd declined to provide a budget figure, but other sources estimated the account in the low six-figure range. The review is being handled by AAR, described by Lloyd as the primary point of contact for agencies.
The review relates only to the Expedia brand, rather than sister brands such as Hotels.com and Hotwire.