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DR's Getaway

1 Nov, 2008 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response


Sophisticated Online Marketing


With a high penetration of travel advertisements on the Web, marketers have to create sophisticated online campaigns if they want to reach consumers and keep them interested in the brand.

IHG is introducing unique online campaigns to try to break the traditional DR marketing mold. In July 2007, one of IHG's brands, Holiday Inn Express, launched a priority-members only Web campaign, The Smart Show, which ran through October 2007.

"We wanted to create a show that has genuine value looking at America through the lens of the brand," says Ben Jones, senior vice president, creative director, Digitas, the agency that took the lead on the campaign. "From there, the thinking was that we started to blur the line of what is DR and what is more general engagement." The interactive video component, geared to business travelers, was positively received and so the campaign was re-launched again this year.

One of the key components to the site is the "deal of the week," which truly engages the customer and creates high weekly return rates. Each week, three items are put on display for members to vote on and at the end of the week, the first five members to log on can redeem rewards points for these items.

"Last year, it was less DR-focused and more about emotional connection with the brand and online space," says Brian Babineau, vice president, group director of media, Digitas. "This year we had to focus on trying to create a relationship that will lead to DR. We've started to care more about targeted, clear measurable outcomes out of every stage and relationship we've had with the Show."

The Digitas team has cultivated more success in the second year of the campaign by creating low-barrier, short-term ways for customers to commit and contribute, such as getting them to play with the Smart Show Tools. Digitas created this campaign after realizing that traditional online acquisition tactics were not enough in an oversaturated Internet world. "People are ignoring that stuff. You can't just tell people about the brand and have it mean something. They have to experience it, start a conversation with other customers. We have to let them know they have a voice or opinion to share, rather than us just saying we have great deals or locations," says Babineau.

However, travel businesses are still investing in TV and other forms of traditional media. Especially in times of major television events, such as the Super Bowl or the Emmys, marketers will spend big ad dollars on DRTV. "With so many new ways to communicate with customers, often the challenge is how to communicate and how to measure that communication," says Ford. "We've been observing that travel brands are getting smart about segmenting their audiences, the behavior and language and what will resonate with a business traveler as opposed to a leisure traveler. It's highly fragmented, with a lot of clutter, so you have to be really sophisticated about how you reach out."


Returning to the Brand


One of the major goals for DR marketers this year is to bring customers back from OTAs to brand Web sites. iSeatz began nine years ago doing online restaurant reservations and, in the past two years, has moved heavily into the travel and financial services disciplines. Some of iSeatz's travel clients include Air Canada, Northwest, Priceline and other OTAs.

One of the company's bigger clients is Delta Airlines. iSeatz is customizing the Web site, so that it can become a one-stop shop for those planning a trip. This way, by offering car rentals or hotel rooms directly on the Web site, customers don't have to leave the Delta site and the airline can keep from losing the commission.

"Suppliers like Hilton, Hertz and Delta are the ones that have the inventory control, and they have to pay commissions to the OTAs for distributing their inventory," says Allen Darnell, COO, iSeatz.

iSeatz's tag line "powering devotion" follows its goal to help customers stay more devoted to their brands. "The economy has a lot to do with it," says Darnell. "With fuel costs going up, fewer margins, less flights, airlines are looking to generate other sources of revenue and reduce distribution costs." By selling all services on the Web site, iSeatz offers the customer an experience and Delta will get that revenue.

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