Chicago Sun-Times
Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

Recently in Choice Hotels International Category

Leo Burnett's already extraordinarily thinly-staffed public relations department has taken another hit. Chicago-based Abby Lovett, who was in charge of Burnett's global public relations effort, is leaving the agency to take a PR job in the Chicago office of Weber Shandwick, where she will work on cherries (trade association stuff, most likely) and Campbell's soup, she told us. That leaves Burnett with exactly one PR representative in Chicago, the pleasant Steve Peckham. But he isn't a Burnetter. Peckham is technically a consultant from PR firm Edelman who has been working at Burnett since May, while the ad agency takes its sweet time finding a full-time PR staffer to replace the less-than-stellar one that was fired last January.

We were told a while ago a new PR person was supposed to take over for Peckham in mid-June, but obviously that didn't happen. And there appears to be no definitive date now for when Burnett will manage to find a new PR leader for its Chicago flagship shop. "They want to get the right fit," Lovett said. Lovett also told us the agency intends to fill her job.

After nearly a five-year tour of duty, Lovett leaves Burnett at a particularly difficult moment in the agency's history. New business has been slow in coming, and the agency's image was battered recently by an alleged billing scandal on the United States Army account, which left the agency a while ago. Even the win of the Choice Hotels International creative account this week has become another reason for anonymous comment posters on blogs to suggest how the once-mighty Burnett has fallen. Many observers seem to doubt that any Burnetter would, of their own volition, ever spend a night in a Choice Hotels budget property.

Well, it's a win. Believe it or not. It may not be a whopper of one. But this is Chicago, and Leo Burnett that has won. So the agency is celebrating, needless to say. Choice Hotels International, the parent of the budget hotel brands Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites and Quality Hotels, has selected Burnett as its creative agency of record. Doner Advertising in Southfield, Mich., will handle promotional campaigns. Billings were not disclosed on the account, but Burnett succeeds Arnold Advertising in Boston as creative agency of record.

Choice apparently has decided it would be better served as a hotel conglomerate if its various hotel chains were supported via distinct ad campaigns for each brand. The new, differentiated campaigns will debut in 2010. The economic downturn has hit the hotel industry hard, forcing hotel chains to reduce room rates significantly to attract guests. "The current state of the hospitality industry has made it more important than ever for us to further evolve our advertising strategy to keep pace with the rapidly changing business environment," said Chris Malone, Choice chief marketing officer.

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Choice Hotels International category.

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