- Marriott International plans to consolidate its entire paid media business under Publicis Groupe, shifting it away from WPP's Wavemaker — formerly MEC — which has handled much of the brand's global media buying since 2011, the website Axios reported Tuesday morning. Marriott is also making Publicis its media agency of record; the news doesn't affect the hotel chain's creative agency partnerships, Axios said.
- The change comes as Marriott, the world's largest hotel company, is looking to become more data-driven and streamlined with its approach to its paid media strategy, and more focused on technology overall. Working with a single agency on paid media will let the brand better tie together the entire customer journey through its mobile app, digital marketing and on-site experiences, per Axios.
- Marriott, which has 30 brands operating in 127 countries, spent around $194 million on paid media last year and $233 million in 2016, according to Kantar Media data cited by Axios. Marriott One Media, supported by Publicis' Spark Foundry and SapientRazorfish shops, will now manage the brand's paid media business.
The news comes as a major win for Publicis, which has been trying to position itself as a more data-driven and technologically-focused agency business to meet the modern marketing demands of brands. The group made waves by sitting out the Cannes Lions advertising festival and other major trade and awards shows last year to instead focus on building out its "Power of One" strategy and an AI-powered platform called Marcel.
Marriott switching agencies with the intentions of accelerating its own focus on technology suggests that Publicis' pivot is already starting to show returns, and the move could help the hotel brand combat outside threats to its business like the home-sharing service Airbnb. Axios highlighted an example of what Marriott's plans might look like in action, where, if a customer is a fan of a certain type of coffee, the brand would offer mobile push notifications telling them nearby locations that serve it.
The loss of Marriott's account is also a considerable blow to WPP, as evidenced in the Kantar Media data. WPP reported flat like-for-like, top-line growth in 2017, along with flat operating margins and profits in Preliminary Results released last week, and is expected to have lost a quarter of its stock value, or roughly $8 million, over the last year. Marriott joins a growing list of big-name global brand clients that have left the agency holding group in recent years, including AT&T and Volkswagen.