It is now clear that the travel industry is well out of its pandemic lows.
For the marketers stoking this demand, the media landscape is changing fast and is looking increasingly fragmented. Yet many are keeping up, with industry leaders telling The Current that travel brands are leveraging programmatic to find customers across the vast expanse of media options, and relying on first-party data to do so in a privacy-conscious manner.
“It’s been fun watching the CTV space mature and take a larger role in integrated media strategy. We’re using programmatic CTV for both awareness and performance marketing,” says Alana Patton, SVP and group media director at travel marketing agency MMGY.
A world of screens
In today’s multiscreen world, programmatic is helping marketers cater their messaging to the long purchase journey for travel products.
“With precise targeting options, programmatic allows for frequency capping and the exclusion of existing customers, ensuring relevant and efficient ad delivery,” says Fabian Kietzmann, chief products and services officer at GroupM Germany.
“Another major advantage lies in the availability of various channels,” says Kietzmann. For example, a commuter waiting at a rainy bus stop might see a digital out-of-home screen displaying a sunny holiday destination. Later, they may encounter the same ad with a personalized message on their mobile device and see it again on their CTV in the evening.
It’s not all smooth sailing, though. The plethora of travel booking sites can make programmatic activations challenging to plan. “Meta searchers like Skyscanner or Kayak and special-interest inventory such as online travel agencies may not be readily available programmatically,” says Kietzmann. “Access to these inventory options may still be limited to traditional IO [insertion order] booking methods.”
Identifying the right travelers
First-party data has been growing in popularity among advertisers, and travel brands are increasingly privy to its efficacy over third-party cookies.
Travel package provider Luxury Escapes turned to its own first-party data to power a lookalike audience (LAL) strategy relying on the cookie-free Unified ID 2.0 (UID2) solution, to create pseudonymous, email-based identifiers.
This first-party data UID2 audience delivered significantly better performance than a pixel-based audience: In Australia alone, Luxury Escapes saw a 276 percent higher conversion rate, 4.75 times higher ROAS, and 78.3 percent lower cost per action.
They haven’t been the only ones benefiting from advances in identity solutions. Cook Islands Tourism jumped on the post-pandemic resurgence in international travel last year, using their email database to build out UID2 LALs for programmatic campaigns across the open internet channels, on display and broadcast video on demand.
Once again, this proved a fruitful strategy: cost per click to landing pages for a UID2 LAL was 14 percent lower compared to a cookie-based LAL. Conversions increased by 60 percent, generating more flight sales to the Cook Islands.
“There are huge opportunities in making use of first-party data and first-party IDs in combination with a detailed dynamic creative optimization approach,” says Kietzmann. “With this approach, cookie-free environments like Safari and Firefox become addressable again and give access to highly relevant and solvent audiences.”
Programmatic in the current economy
Travel brands are particularly susceptible to shocks in consumer demand, as shown by the havoc wrought on the industry by the pandemic. For them, programmatic advertising could bring a stabilizing force.
“Programmatic is a great fit in current economic conditions and as we think about the upcoming political season [in the U.S.],” says MMGY’s Patton. “There will be less volatility in programmatic rates compared to traditional media formats.”
As media fragments and consumers increasingly become audiences of one, programmatic looks especially well positioned to try to future-proof travel brands’ advertising strategies, especially when brands are willing to consider emerging and niche publishers and audiences beyond the travel vertical.
“High-impact positioning in unexpected spaces offers a chance to make a splash,” says Patton. “These opportunities are a great complement to the granularity and personalization available via programmatic media.”