After a dozen years, Best Western Hotels & Resorts has checked out of Allison + Partners, its longtime agency of record, and hit the honeymoon suite with a young upstart: San Diego-based J Public Relations.
“Going into such a monumental year, we needed to have fresh ideas and rethink some of our approaches,” Dorothy Dowling, Best Western’s chief marketing officer and senior vice president, told the Observer. “We have invested $2 billion in property improvements and introduced a reimagined brand identity.”
Why award such a massive account to JPR, a 50-person bicoastal firm barely more than a decade old, over Allison, whose 19 bureaus stretch from San Francisco to Singapore (and ranked No. 49 on the Observer’s 2015 PR Power 50)?
“JPR is an up-and-coming agency with a proven track record,” Dowling said. “They specialize in hospitality, and their existing media relationships and consumer focus is what Best Western is counting on to propel us forward.” JPR was also the Observer’s #1 travel-PR firm in the 2015 PR Power 50 ranking of agencies by specialty.
“Travelers have changed—they expect smart design, are more educated about travel, and are as open-minded as ever. This is the perfect time for a global brand to recognize that,” Sigler said.
Pitching Best Western’s phonetically named Vīb and GLō brands—“boutique hotels for the midscale,” they say—will be one of the agency’s first assignments, according to Jamie Lynn Sigler, J Public Relation’s founding partner (not to be confused with the actress of the same name).
“The biggest challenge facing Best Western is brand perception,” Sigler said. “Best Western has focused on its descriptor program to differentiate the categories of properties within the brand, from midscale to upscale. Our job is to help travelers understand these different categories and what their options are when choosing to stay at a Best Western property.”
Sigler founded the agency in San Diego in 2005; college pal Sarah Evans opened a New York office in 2009. The firm’s grown to more than $6 million in billings from four offices, including Scottsdale and Santa Monica. Best Western’s unlikely to conflict with J’s other clients, an upmarket roster that includes Ritz-Carlton, Jumeirah, Triumph Hotels, and Grace Hotels.
“Travelers have changed—they expect smart design, are more educated about travel, and are as open-minded as ever. This is the perfect time for a global brand to recognize that,” Sigler said. “What Best Western is doing now is moving in the same direction as this evolving customer. Partnering with a niche, boutique agency like ours furthers the commitment on both sides to tell the story in an inspired, engaging way.”
Meanwhile, Scott Allison, the chairman and CEO of Allison + Partners, is taking the high road about the split.
“We’ve had a great run with Best Western and we’re proud of our 12-year partnership with them and the results we achieved,” he told the Observer in an email. “Our programs received many accolades and more importantly, delivered significant business results. Change is simply inevitable in our business.”