Ogilvy and WPP ride out CBP backlash in global PR win for InterContinental Group

The account comprises a number of IHG brands

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has awarded WPP an expanded chunk of its PR business, sidestepping the controversy of Ogilvy’s work with the US Department of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to name the agency lead of a three-shop roster.

IHG has consolidated its global PR work into WPP agencies Ogilvy, Hill + Knowlton Strategies and Burson Cohn & Wolfe. It will be led out of Ogilvy’s New York offices.

Staff will work across a number of IHG brands, including Holiday Inn, Crown Plaza and Avid Hotels.

IHG has worked with WPP since 2012 in “select” regional markets, according to a press release. These include the UK, China and Canada.

It is understood the consolidation will see markets such as Latam and the US brought into the holding company's fold, meaning IPG's Weber Shandwick will lose the latter account.

IPG confirmed to The Drum that it was no longer working on the business.

Jaime Prieto has led WPP’s overarching ‘Team IHG’ out of New York since April, overseeing digital, media and creative accounts alongside PR.

Emma Corcoran, vice-president of global corporate communications at IHG, said: "Partnering with WPP to tell engaging stories that drive greater awareness and preference among consumers is an important part of how we differentiate ourselves in the industry.”

Mark Read, chief executive of WPP, said the win proved clients are “reacting positively” to the holding company’s turnaround plan. The strategy, which was unveiled after the departure of founder Sir Martin Sorrell, aims to simplify the company’s offering through consolidation.

However Ogilvy, one of its biggest agency brands, found itself in an international PR crisis of its own last month after its advertising work for the CBP was made public amid reports the government agency was detaining migrants in unsanitary premises on the Southern Border.

Its chief executive John Seifert was forced to issue a statement standing by the new client after a recording of staff confronting leadership over the account was leaked to the press.

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