Travel brands need to be creative when thinking about programmatic


Programmatic advertising – the ability to target infinite audience segments across the web – means that serving the same, generic advertisements to all your target audiences is no longer an effective strategy.

NB This is a viewpoint by Melody Yan, a marketing manager at Thunder.

But in order to cut through the clutter and drive conversions, marketers need to match creatives to the unique characteristics of each audience group and test concepts against each other to optimize campaign performance.

Thunder has been working closely with several travel brands and agencies including Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) and we have compiled these programmatic creative best practices based on what we’ve learned.

GA JULY16 prog creative main

1. Always start from geo-targeting

Whether you are an international travel brand with thousands of properties worldwide, or a smaller national brand with under a hundred locations, the first and most necessary way to vary the creative is by geography.

As each destination and property provides a different experience for customers, so should the creative. Take exotic getaways for example. Use imagery of the stunning natural landscapes and tropical scenery, while for major metropolitan cities, highlight the aesthetic architecture and impressive skyline. Draw customers in with the special accommodations that each property provides, or unique benefits, like how close they are to tourist attractions.

Incorporate intent data from users who have searched for flight and hotel information on travel sites. Target these customers with images of their intended destination in conjunction with your proposed rates for flights or hotels in those specific locations programmatically.

Boost your geo-targeting efforts by showing local customers the allure of nearby getaways, and offering exclusive rewards to local residents. Grab immediate attention with geo-specific events, such as national holidays, weather forecasts, or sporting events including the Super Bowl, Olympics, or World Cup.

Location is the single most significant factor that affects the creative for travel brands. All other tactics should be executed with the location or destination in mind.

2. Layer in demographic, behavioral, and contextual data

Personalize ad experiences further with customer data. Target unique attributes that make up your audiences and customize the creative by tailoring images and copy to what is top of mind for them.

Retired “gray nomads” should see a different ad than a young couple. Young adults should see an ad that excites their sense of adventure, while gray nomads should see an ad that encourages relaxation and discovery.

Relate your brand to your customer’s interests and behaviors, too. Individuals traveling for work should see ads featuring business travelers and business-friendly amenities, while individuals interested in weddings should see images of the elegant venue and your event offerings.

Translation is a powerful way to target your audiences. Both global and local ads benefit from translated messaging. Even in the United States there are many cosmopolitan populations where English may not be their first language. There are Spanish and Chinese communities in most large cities, as well as French Creoles in Florida, Persians in and around Los Angeles and the Polish population in Chicago.

All these groups are typically underserved in their native tongue; brands should use that to their advantage.

3. Use programmatic creative for both branding and direct response

Branding and direct response can both benefit from programmatic creative tactics that help travel brands attract new and repeat customers.

Use programmatic to build a strong and memorable brand by focusing on your organization’s unique benefits. Customize each creative to reflect the core strengths of your brand, from your top notch amenities and interiors, to your best-in-class customer service and competitive rates. Rich imagery and colors evokes emotional connection, and customer testimonials establishes credibility. Tell a story about your brand and why consumers should choose you by combining emotion and safety.

Since direct response focuses on driving conversions, inspire users to take action with personalized incentives, contests, and rewards program signups. Test what offers, messages, or designs spur the highest conversion. Extend both your branding and direct response messaging across channels, including your social networks. Providing a consistent brand experience will help to boost conversion rates and motivate brand preference.

Programmatic creative allows brands to precisely engage targeted audiences wherever they are. To keep your creatives fresh and effective, monitor programmatic performance. Uncover new insights by testing and learning. If you’re on the mark, you will achieve hyper-relevant ads that will drive higher campaign results.

NB This is a viewpoint by Melody Yan, a marketing manager at Thunder.

NB2 Image by Jakub Jirsak/BigStock



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