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Why Out-of-Home Advertising Remains Viable For Travel Brands

In a world in which our public discourse, our politics and our buying decisions are increasingly shaped online, the humble billboard appears to be making a comeback.

In the UK in 2017 the online advertising market was worth £11.5bn and overtook all other forms, according to a government study.

Yet UK trade body for the billboard industry, Outsmart, claims that “out of home advertising” (OOH) grew by 5.7% last year to be worth £1.2 billion. Recently billboards and out-of-home media have been used to great effect on both sides of the Brexit campaign.

But looking through the details, much of that growth can be put down to the new popularity of digital billboards. Traditional outdoor advertising boards have actually seen a decline in revenue – in the UK at least.

But overall the billboard market is a healthy one. And you can understand why: Billboards can quickly give brands national reach at a relatively low cost.

They also avoid some of the common (and awkward) pitfalls of online advertising. Being clearly positioned in the public domain means there’s little chance your company’s content will be inadvertently published alongside something offensive or inappropriate, for example.

So how can travel agents use out of home advertising to their advantage, and what are some of the lessons we can learn from efforts in the space so far?

There are a few reasons why travel brands choose to go with out of home options. For starters, with big billboards comes big space. When you’re marketing a product based on visuals and selling it partly through visual appeal, every pixel counts.

And, as we get into below, out of home media also encompasses a range of creative options. These leave room for genuine connections and lasting impressions, both of which are important factors in driving businesses, brand awareness and loyalty.

This week we have a guest contribution from Emily Fritz, Marketing Manager at do it outdoors media. Below, Emily discusses the benefits of out of home advertising and features some successful examples from travel companies around the world…

Why Travel Brands Should Consider Out-of-Home Media

Amidst the boom of digital marketing, some traditional media sources have suffered. And there’s good reason for that: digital provides easy-to-report measurements and allows for niche targeting and personalization. Display and social ads offer a low CPM (cost per thousand impressions).

But it’s not without its limitations. Bots across social media platforms interfere with and dilute the potency of targeted campaigns, while ad blocking software and banner blindness have become accepted hurdles when it comes to winning new business.  

The out-of-home industry, however, is gaining traction by working with – not against – digital marketing. The Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA) reports that U.S. out-of-home advertising revenue rose 4.5% in 2018 compared to 2017. The $8 billion OOH industry in the U.S. has seen 35 consecutive quarters of growth. Globally, out-of-home was expected to reach $38 billion last year.

Brands are seeing the value in out-of-home and are either coming back time and time again or are beginning to add out-of-home media to their overall strategy.

Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google are represented among the top out-of-home buyers in almost every world market. Start-ups Ro, Luminary Media and Eaze have seen success with out-of-home, as well. Small, local and mammoth global brands are leveraging the power and reach of out-of-home (OOH).

It’s not a fluke. This growth rate wouldn’t be happening if out-of-home wasn’t an effective marketing media. Marketers wouldn’t keep investing in something that wasn’t working.

Old, but not old-fashioned, out-of-home is actually quite the ad trend in 2019.

If you haven’t given out-of-home a look lately, it’s time to reconsider how it can help your travel-tourism brand raise awareness and grow bookings. With worldwide opportunities, travel-tourism brands can engage new audiences and reap the rewards of adding out-of-home to the mix.

The benefits of out-of-home media

Big. Bold. Oh, and revenue-generating.  

Out-of-home advertising can cover a lot of things – literally. You can use billboards, mobile billboards, taxi tops, buses, bus shelters, subway cars, stadiums, cinema, airports, mall kiosks or aerial blimps to drive your brand’s messaging. These media formats surround and reach consumers during the 70 percent of their day they spend away from home.

These physical media formats cannot be skipped, fast-forwarded through, ad blocked or deleted. They are tangible real estate to promote your travel-tourism brand.

Out-of-home media is shown to have greatest impact on awareness, recommendation and purchase-intent metrics. While traditional and digital channels tend to get the biggest share of advertising budgets, it’s out-of-home that is actually driving higher return-on-investment (ROI). According to Omnicom Media Group’s Benchmarketing research, advertisers see a $5.97 return on every $1 spent on out-of-home – higher than that of other channels.

In the 2016 Nielsen Out-of-Home Advertising Study, exposure and engagement for out-of-home were quite fantastic. The report shows 91% of United States residents age 16+ could be reached by out-of-home. In the past month, 80% of these U.S. residents noticed an out-of-home ad. The same study shows 82% of billboard viewers make a point to look at the advertising message. This leads to recall…and also action.

The Nielsen study measured specific actions taken after seeing an out-of-home ad, which revealed:

  • 21% visited a restaurant advertised
  • 16% immediately visited the business advertised with a directional ad
  • 26% talked about the ad or product with others
  • 23% interacted with the ad via NFC sensor or QR code

While no specific research was conducted on travel bookings, these results are promising.

The benefits of out-of-home include a widespread reach to raise awareness, the driving ROI factor and the direct-resulting actions taken by viewers.

Out-of-home is positioned to offer massive reach within a market. Therefore, travel brands can take advantage of the highly competitive CPM rates this channel generates.

What’s more is the way people perceive out-of-home advertising. First, while people are consuming out-of-home media, they’re more confident, excited, hopeful, positive and happy than while consuming other forms of media. Secondly, people trust out-of-home. It’s up there at the top of the list, next to print, for credibility.

In public opinion polls, more than 85% of people believe that billboards provide useful information, and 83% find out-of-home informative.

Global travel & tourism GDP is projected to grow 4% annually over the next decade. That’s a good sign for travel brands, like yours. However, there are a lot of options for people to choose when it comes to vacation destinations. Out-of-home advertising allows you to influence those decisions effectively.

By bringing online statements into the real world, the Led By Donkeys Brexit campaign in the UK has shown how powerful simple out-of-home media can be.

The creative impact of out-of-home media

Travel-tourism brands are aces at eye-catching creative and are naturally visual storytellers. Out-of-home provides amazing canvases. There’s a synergy for out-of-home that doesn’t always exist so easily across all other verticals.

Whether you’re an airline, cruise line, hotel, resort, CVB, destination or other tourism brand, you’re selling travel experiences. An experience that you can use to create mini moments for an audience while they’re out and about.

For example, this Travel Wisconsin bus shelter literally gave passersby the opportunity to immerse themselves in a fun moment. More importantly, this creative experience while waiting for a bus also gave consumers a moment to think about what a vacation in Wisconsin may offer them.  It connected someone emotionally to this travel brand, as they could imagine feeling the water as they floated inside the visual inner tube.

Courtesy: OAAA Creative Library, Wisconsin Department of Tourism, Agency: Laughlin Constable, Summer 2012

While not as immersive as the Travel Wisconsin example, this ad by Air New Zealand sure is attention-grabbing. Out-of-home placements allow for insanely creative ideas that do get noticed!

Courtesy: OAAA Creative Library, Air New Zealand, Agency: BBDO West, 2006

Not all out-of-home is stand-still, either. Teams of brand ambassadors can personally engage and interact with people on the street.

During Olympus Fashion Week in New York City, the City of Las Vegas promoted itself as the “world’s newest fashion capital.” It deployed an interactive team of Elvis impersonators and Las Vegas Showgirls to engage Fashion Week attendees, as well as high-end fashion shoppers along 5th Avenue.

The team was able to hand out 10,000 shopping guides and generate earned media. This included user-generated social content and was featured in AdWeek, Media Daily News and other publications.

On a similar note, the Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau unleashed a team of brand ambassadors dressed as doctors and nurses in Memphis. They ‘diagnosed’ Memphians with ‘Tunica Fever’ and passed out ‘prescriptions’ in the form of flyers and premium comps for Tunica-area casinos. The campaign included TV, radio, online and social ads using the same concept. It was a clever way to grab attention and stir excitement to visit Tunica.

Courtesy: do it outdoors media

Unlike out-of-home, there are creative limits to a 320×50 digital ad or an online video. Out-of-home really isn’t one media – it’s many. Artists apply many mediums within the creative, as well – even snow.

Our world is pretty cluttered. The creative impact of an out-of-home installment truly can cut through that clutter to make a memorable impression. These bold messaging formats are key in today’s media landscape.

Data-driven out-of-home

Digital isn’t the only data-driven media out there. Location-based marketing leverages mobile data to understand people patterns as they commute throughout their days. This data can then be used as insight into where the best placements are for your travel-tourism messaging.

You can start to craft audiences in the real world – and serve them your messages on physical media.

“By understanding where people go and how they behave in a typical day, we can use data to pinpoint activities: Where they go, what they’re doing, what sort of apps they’re engaging with,” OAAA CMO Stephen Freitas told Recode in this article.

“We can start to identify like-minded people and where they might go or congregate. We then can start to serve ads in the particular places where those types of consumers are more likely to be found.”

By analyzing anonymous, aggregated data, we can begin to profile consumers – and where they travel throughout a day. Advertisers can start to apply audience segmentation into their out-of-home media campaigns. Today, out-of-home is highly targeted.

Some out-of-home media formats give you more flexibility in aiming your message in precise locations to reach the right audience. For example, a mobile billboard follows a prescribed route that is customized to the advertiser and its target audience. It can follow the patterns of your key audience and predict when and where they’ll intercept your message.

To promote its BBQ Trail, Alabama Tourism Department declared war. A mobile billboard drove by BBQ fairs and festivals in neighboring U.S. states. It was reaching fans of all things BBQ, who also would enjoying eating BBQ while visiting Alabama. The ad creative reminded festival goers who’s the BBQ King, as Alabama staked its claim loudly.

Courtesy: do it outdoors media

The out-of-home advertising industry continues to leverage technology to remain relevant. This has been attracting new advertisers and allowing optimization across multi-media campaigns.

Out-of-home drives success in other channels

One reason out-of-home has been able to sustain its growth in an ever-changing media landscape is its ability to fortify other media channels.

A recent webinar hosted by Geopath and presented by Horst Stipp, EVP of Global Business Strategy at the ARF (The Advertising Research Foundation), explored the importance of multi-media marketing plans. The research presented shows that there is incremental ROI with the addition of more platforms or channels.

A 2018 report conducted by Omnicom Media Group’s Benchmarketing found that increasing the allocation of out-of-home, specifically, to the media mix will generate greater return on overall ad investments.

Many leading brands will save a small sliver, typically around 5%, of the overall budget to use in out-of-home. But the truth is, brands will see a bigger reward when they re-adjust that allocation to include more out-of-home.

As a travel brand, you’re keeping your eye on Google’s travel services, managing several social media platforms and even figuring out where robots fit into your future plans. There are certainly a lot of balls in the air.

But knowing that there is one media channel that can increase your reach and amplify your results in all the other channels should allow you to rest easy. Out-of-home lets other media work harder, creating results that are greater than the sum. In this sense, it becomes your campaign booster, supercharging each element in the mix.

A USA Touchpoints study shows similar results as the others. Adding out-of-home to other media potentially increases the reach by up to 300%.  

Lately, a driving factor for out-of-home’s success has been its uncanny ability to integrate with mobile display advertising. When you plan your out-of-home and mobile campaigns with unified creatives and in the same key locations, you see improved performance. Here’s why: the out-of-home message adds credibility and raises awareness, and the mobile display ad reinforces the message and provides a point of conversion.

Mobile advertising also supports out-of-home through additional metrics. An advertiser can measure the devices which were close to that ad and then later took an action.

We all know that frequency of messaging helps stir consumer action. So by delivering a consistent message across these two widely used channels, you’re stacking the deck in your favor.

Ocean Outdoor and NeuroInsights discovered that 48% of people are more likely to click a mobile ad after seeing the same out-of-home ad.

Clicks aren’t the only online engagements out-of-home drives, either.

In fact, Nielsen’s Out-of-Home Online Activation Study from March 2017 showed that outdoor advertising is the best driver of online engagements per dollar spent. The study showed that of U.S. adults who have seen an outdoor ad:

  • 46% performed an online search
  • 38% took an action on Facebook
  • 23% took an action on Twitter
  • 25% took an action on Instagram

Out-of-home has the ability to strengthen the overall media campaign, reach people in the digital age and provide measureable results to advertisers.

If you haven’t considered how out-of-home media can benefit your travel brand, perhaps it’s time to think again.

Artificial Intelligence Will Change the Travel Industry Forever

When we think of artificial intelligence, it’s easy for our minds to rest on those eerie dystopian blockbusters you see at the movies. In the Hollywood version, life with AI is the end of life as we know it, evil computers are ruling the world. Except it doesn’t have to be like that. In many ways, it seems like AI has got a bad name before it’s even got off the ground. That’s why today we thought we’d take a closer look at AI and its potential applications in the travel industry.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

That’s actually a pretty complicated question. In general, a computer with AI is seen as being able to take on tasks that would normally require human intelligence. ‘What’s so special about human intelligence?’ you might ask. Well, it usually consists of essential skills such as learning, reasoning, perception and the understanding of natural language.

Before we get bogged down in the philosophy of what constitutes artificial intelligence, let’s just not even go there. Let’s instead consider how a computer program capable of, say, learning, reasoning and effectively communicating could be applied in the travel industry…

Take a step back and consider the main challenges that startups in the travel industry face at the moment. These include attracting the next generation of travellers, retaining those customers, competing with established names in the industry and much more besides. And how are these challenges being taken on? Well, many startups are relying on the quality of their product and customer experience to shine through, others are employing the latest marketing and social media techniques to get ahead; some are targeting and communicating with their customers in unprecedented ways.

All of these elements, from marketing to customer service, experience and retention, could all be impacted by AI in the near future.

In the travel industry, every stage of the customer cycle contains data points that can be stored and analysed by artificial intelligence. Patterns can be established and acted upon. These include qualitative information such as the motivation for travel and numerical data like the booking date, along with personal information from birthdates to primary language and marital status. Trawling through all of this and coming up with valuable insights for travel agencies can be a daunting task, but intelligent algorithms can analyse them with ease.

In theory, having access to all of this data and the power to analyse it should give travel brands actionable insights into the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and information on how to target certain demographics. It can also be part of an automated system that’s programmed to do certain things independently throughout the booking process and beyond. Let’s take a closer look.

The hotel industry’s automated future

A recent report from Skift, titled ‘The hotel industry’s automated future‘, outlines the role that AI could play throughout the customer journey with hotels and travel platforms.

To begin with, there’s marketing and outreach. With huge amounts of data on previous customers and travel trends, AI can easily spot patterns in booking behaviours and highlight how and why certain demographics book the trips they do.

This information can allow travel companies to tailor their outreach going forward, for example by going through a specific customer’s preferred digital platform with messages that have been proven to resonate in the past. There are obvious benefits to taking this kind of targeted approach. Instead of trying to appeal to the majority or flying blindly with broad marketing and outreach campaigns, travel brands can save time and resources by working smarter.

If automated, this kind of outreach could target a customer that booked a trip in May last year through a tablet in response to an email offering a discount. That same sequence of events can be set in motion once again, automatically, making the same end result far more likely.

It goes without saying that this will save travel brands time and money on big marketing campaigns and instead shifts the focus of their efforts toward each individual.

If this all sounds a bit heartless and devoid of genuine connection between travel provider and traveller, the key takeaway from the report is that AI combined with a human touch offers the best of both worlds. An example of this would be upsells offered to guests during the check-in process at a hotel. Armed with data saying that a family of four is arriving and has previously booked adventure activities, a hotel receptionist can offer trips nearby that fit the mould. These personal touches are based on data gathered prior to the meeting but come across as genuine, enhanced customer service.

Cendyn chief sales and marketing officer Tim Sullivan points out the following: Brands offering upsells and extras en masse to potential customers could be alienating them before a booking has even been made. Why are you offering a childcare discount to a young couple on a romantic holiday? “AI doesn’t mean humans can be totally hands off,” says Sullivan. “The promise of this technology is about man/machine symbiosis. Using the massive computational power of artificial intelligence to enable humans to be more efficient, productive, and insightful.”

Customer service, revolutionised

We can’t have a conversation about AI in the travel industry without considering the way it could impact customer service in the near future. Marketing is one thing, but is it realistic to expect complex interactions to take place between traveller and computer in a travel setting?

The short answer is yes. Smart personal assistants such as Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri are growing in popularity. And they are doing so because they work. They offer insightful and relevant information, more often than not directly related to your query. In a travel setting this kind of assistance can be convenient and vital, whether you’re looking for directions, restaurant recommendations or things to do nearby.

Did you know there’s a hotel in Japan that is fully-staffed by smart robots? In theory, from check-in to room service, AI-powered machines could take care of the menial tasks, leaving humans to offer more bespoke and personalised customer service than ever before.

Is AI and artificial intelligence going to benefit travel?

If the bartender knows what drink you’re going to order before you’ve even arrived, is that wonderful or creepy?

The obvious advantage that AI can bring to customer service is the notion that intelligent computers will be able to predict what you want before you want it. They can then ensure that a.) it’s ready for when you eventually request it, or b.) make it available before you even ask. This could apply to anything from towels to train tickets.

Smarter CRM

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. Could the power of AI boost loyalty for travel brands? Well, if we combine elements of the two areas we’ve covered so far, marketing and customer service, it quickly becomes clear that the answer is yes.

Customer Relationship Management, at least in the travel industry, is all about data. To develop long-lasting relationships with clients and travellers, tourism operators need to know as much information as possible about customers. This data could cover everything from their age, gender and dining preferences to their interests and profession.

All of this information can be used during a customer’s trip to keep service at extraordinary levels, as well as being applied between bookings to lure travellers back in the right way. Artificial Intelligence has the potential to make this possible with a few simple clicks with a mouse. CRM managers will have never had it so good!

AI promises to bring to light valuable insights and patterns that travel operators will never have had before. This, in theory, should lead to improved customer service, better quality marketing and a boost in loyalty to brands who apply this wave of information in the right way.

There is a wrong way to harness AI

With great personal data comes great responsibility. Travel operators will need to find the right balance between predicting and tracking customer behaviour in a way that makes their experience more positive on the one hand, and coming across as digital stalkers obsessing over tiny details of irrelevant information. They key will be in how things are presented. Sure, a hotel guest might be interested in a return visit to the spa for a discounted price. But they won’t want to be reminded at what exact time they visited before, or how long they stayed in the jacuzzi for.