Campaign Middle East newsletter, August 21, 2005

I don’t think the worldwide marketing industry could survive without hotels.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  August 21, 2005

Why hotels are the marketing industry’s life blood|~||~||~|I don’t think the worldwide marketing industry could survive without hotels. In the UK, the mothership is the Grosvenor House Hotel, where virtually every industry awards ceremony seems to take place. Here in the Middle East, of course, we now have our own recently opened version of Grotty House, as it was fondly known, although it’s far too new to be a genuine brand extension of its London namesake. But for marketing folk, the role of hotels is even more important here in the Middle East. I seem to spend half my life trooping up to press conferences on the 33rd floor of Dubai’s Fairmont Hotel, while the licensing rules mean that virtually every media watering hole in the city is attached to a hotel. Agency life without hotel bars would be hard to recognise. So no wonder everybody in the industry has strong views about hotel marketing. Just how strong, you can gauge by the fact that when Alexander McNabb emailed over his column to me this week, the name of the document was “Hotels are evil”. There is a delicate marketing balance to be struck between maximising revenue and alienating long-term customers. Mr McNabb, for one, is feeling a little bruised on behalf of his clients as the Gitex exhibition approaches. Still, it would take a brave marketing director to argue against making hay after the ropey summer for hotels that’s just coming to an end. Meanwhile, in our feature we’ve also been looking at how hotels are marketed across the region. One area of interest is just how many of them have taken their PR functions — and often advertising too — in-house on the basis that they know their businesses best. And, on the whole, they do seem to do a pretty good job. Yet one of the best PR performances I’ve experienced in the last few months came from an agency working for a hotel chain while I was working on this feature. So respect to PR agency Impact Porter Novelli, working on behalf of Intercontinental. When we emailed about the feature, they were on the phone within 20 minutes. Within a further half an hour they’d followed up with a confirmation email and an interview with the boss was set up for the next day. It took place on time at the agreed venue and was followed up the next day with a full set of images being biked around on a CD — all without prompting. A textbook example of good PR, yet also enough of a rarity for the region that it was worthy of comment in our newsroom. Sad, of course, that what should be taken for granted as a professional performance should be noteworthy, but it’s still nice to see a PR agency adding value for a client rather than just taking their cash. Clients doing it themselves seems to be another theme this week. Hotels aren’t the only ones opting to go it alone. Heineken are involved in a joint venture to market its products in the Middle East. Previously, this had been the role of distributor MMI, but, again, product expertise is driving the firm to market itself in order to win back lost market share. Interesting that clients are showing increasing signs that they want to do their marketing themselves and it marks a big challenge for the industry. The danger is that clients may find that doing a comparable job to what they were getting before is not as hard as they expected. If they can’t add value — and prove they are doing so — why should advertising, PR, and, when it comes down to it, even media agencies, expect to win any business from clients? It’s yet another reason why agencies are going to need to start showing that their expertise can make a genuine difference.||**||

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