Hotel Checks in With Female Travelers

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Anticipating that half its customers will be female business travelers by 2005, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, White Plains, NY, is reaching out to them by launching a $10 million ad campaign today promoting its Westin Hotels & Resorts branch.

"The ads, media and lists we use for our direct mail campaign will be highly targeted to female business travelers," said Sue Brush, vice president of marketing for Westin Hotels.

The campaign will start in daily and weekly publications including Modern Bride, Business Week, Conde Nast Traveler, Martha Stewart Weddings, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. The direct mail portion is scheduled to begin Oct. 20.

Brush called the campaign a radical departure from what competitors are doing.

"Most of the ads done for hotels are pretty pictures of lobbies and flowers and people standing around laughing," she said. "What we want to do is speak directly to people and invite our potential customers to come and join us in a very personal one-on-one relationship."

In that vein, Starwood, with the help of DDB New York, has created a series of 10 print ads designed to look like actual invitations. Brush said the text is "pressed onto the paper with a gold-leaf insignia at the top." Also at the top of each ad will be a different icon, each signifying various services, products, programs and benefits available for travelers at Westin that will be further explained in the text.

At the bottom of the piece is a reminder to R.S.V.P. Westin Hotels or A toll-free number and Web address will be provided, and the company will measure which one draws more people, Brush said.

Details are being finalized to extend the campaign into 2001. It will include more publications yet to be selected, and some likely will be regional publications, Brush said.

The direct mail will continue the use of the invitation, with 250,000 actual invitations sent to a highly segmented audience. The invitations will include the icons used in the print campaigns.

Brush anticipates at least five drops of varying sizes in order to reach segments including women business travelers, meeting planners and travel agents. Those targeted will include prospects as well as people within the Westin database. People who respond to the print ads will be contacted with a follow-up e-mail and, Brush said, will receive a direct mail piece.

Brush said the campaign's goal is to collect e-mail addresses that will allow for development of the one-on-one relationships with customers.

Radio ads will appear in about five to seven major markets starting in late September. Limited TV spots will run on ESPN, and poster versions of the print ads will appear in airports around the country.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts has more than 725 properties in 80 countries.

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