To Marriott, Integrated Marketing Is A Work In Motion

After its merger with Starwood, Marriott is doubling down on paid media to drive awareness for some of its new portfolio brands.

One ad campaign, “Go Beyond,” which launched this week, commemorates Sheraton Hotels’ 80th year in business.

“We are trying a lot of new things in digital including people-based marketing and sequential messaging with unique creative,” said Mara Hannula, VP of global brand marketing for Marriott International, Sheraton’s parent company.

“All of the creative we use is designed specifically for the channel it runs in. A 30-second spot is very different than the very purposeful approach we take with digital.”

“Go Beyond” mixes TV, out-of-home and digital activations, with 70% of Sheraton’s media spend dedicated to digital (and half of digital customized for mobile).

Marriott and Sheraton traditionally were heavy investors in mobile video on YouTube, but in light of Google’s brand safety battle, the company temporarily halted its spend there late last week.  

Marriott’s media leadership team is evaluating Google’s new brand safety policies and tools before deciding how to proceed by the end of this week. Its YouTube spend will remain paused until then.

“Google needs to employ stricter ad policies and should offer makegoods for brands that have been subject to the misplacement of their brand advertising,” Hannula noted.

But Marriott wants to spend its ad dollars where customers are spending time. And when it comes to social video, YouTube is still effective.

“When we serve up an ad, if we make those five seconds before you get to your content on YouTube really engaging and do something clever before you push the button to skip that ad, it’s memorable,” Hannula said. “ Customers will recognize your brand more than if you just push ads out without paying mind to where they’re appearing.”

Although Marriott experiments with programmatic and advanced targeting across its portfolio, “Go Beyond” included plenty of direct publisher integrations, including a video content series it has created with MLB.TV and the Major League Baseball’s digital properties.

“We’re also working with global influencers to help tell stories about our [Sheraton] associates, all of which is done dynamically,” Hannula said. “As we push things forward, we’re religiously tracking where customers are spending their time or clicking and then optimizing against it.”

But the hotel brand doesn’t think of media purely in the context of paid ads. A global, integrated marketing campaign of this caliber requires all cylinders – paid, earned and owned media – to fire at once.

Constant testing, both of creative and of new media channels, is key.

“We’re asking, ‘What does Sheraton look like on Facebook and Instagram and how does that fit into the rest of our mix?” Hannula said. “You have to have a consistent image to really create an integrated approach.”


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