Erika Engle

Hilo Hattie’s advertising
contract changes hands

The multimillion-dollar Hilo Hattie advertising contract has been awarded to Laird Christianson Harris Advertising Inc., answering a question floated at meetings and over meals and cocktails for weeks.

Effective Jan. 1, the new contract will end a 9-year relationship between Hilo Hattie and Ogilvy & Mather Hawaii, where officials could not be reached.

The change follows a review, common as such contracts near expiration.

"It was very close among all the ad agencies," said Carlton Kramer, vice president of sales and marketing for Hilo Hattie.

"We couldn't be more excited. It was an all-hands effort on our part where every single employee was involved in the pitch and the follow-up," said Buck Laird, president of Laird Christianson Harris.

"We really fell in love with Hilo Hattie. As we told the executive team ... 'You can hire us or not, but in order to keep us from doing your advertising you're going to have to lie down in front of us'," he laughed.

He praised Paul DeVille, Hilo Hattie president and chief executive officer, for the review process.

"It's the best model for a review. The best and most inclusive and most politics-free."

"The other thing, Paul and his team had a great concern and interest in the fit, the chemistry and the cultural fit of the companies. It went way beyond just technical skills because I'm sure all the agencies they talked to had great skill levels -- I know they do," said Laird.

"We're in the process of sorting out the transition plan at this time," he said.

Hilo Hattie's contract for public relations services, the value of which is not in the millions of dollars, is also under review. An announcement is expected within 30 days, Kramer said.

Becker Communications Inc. has been performing perform public relations work in Hawaii and on the mainland for Hilo Hattie's ongoing 40th anniversary. The company's PR contract for Japan has been with Hawaii-based Nashimoto & Associates. Hilo Hattie will keep the Japan and Hawaii-North American PR contracts separate, Kramer said.

The e-commerce account will remain with StarrTech Interactive, a division of Starr Seigle Communications Inc.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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