Is there anyone better to lead advertisers on how to market to a jetset-focused audience than travel operators? Kayak and Tripadvisor have heavily leaned on a bet that there isn’t. And according to the two travel powerhouses, that bet is still strong.
In the last couple of years, both metasearch companies have launched in-house media agencies that are focused on creating advertising campaign content for brands that want to market to travelers.
And those brands are not just ones operating in the travel space.
“With travel search demand up globally, travelers have become a key audience that brands … find intriguing,” said Allan Askov Christoffersen, senior director of media and brand activations at Kayak. “They’re using their money to go on trips and prioritizing time away compared to other luxuries.”
Both Tripadvisor and Kayak have been growing these internal agencies, which are meant to complement traditional advertisers’ work bolstered by the companies’ deep travel knowledge that informs how to appeal to audiences
With travel search demand up globally, travelers have become a key audience that brands (not just within the travel space) find intriguing.
Allan Askov Christoffersen – Kayak
The role of Kayak and Tripadvisor’s in-house media studios
Kayak Media is what Askov Christoffersen called the company’s “creative content solution” for advertisers.
“We offer full-funnel integrated campaigns to help brands effectively connect with travelers at various points throughout the travel planning process,” he said.
And its client-base is diverse, including destination management organizations, hotels, airlines and also global communications providers and clothing brands.
According to Kayak Media’s website, insights from Kayak’s users are woven into campaigns created with partners that contribute their own insights.
Similarly on its site, Tripadvisor claims Wanderlab can translate “global insights into brand stories that resonate with our 400-plus million global travelers, wherever they are.” Tripadvisor has worked with clients including Cutwater Spirits, Visit San Diego and others. The content can live on Tripadvisor or be used on other platforms, such as a series that aired on Amazon Prime called “The Wanderer” in partnership with GoTürkiye.
Robert Cole, Phocuswright senior research analyst for lodging and leisure travel, said that conceptually, the agencies can offer integration with their platforms and help partners with omnichannel campaigns while offering scaled services with a reach beyond what some clients are capable of on their own as they pursue their interest in a travel-focused audience.
“In essence, they are designed to help the organizations that sell through their marketplaces to be more successful by either a) expanding their reach into new markets, b) improving their conversion of prospective customers, or c) reducing their incremental cost of those conversions,” Cole said.
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The crux of the concept is audience knowledge
With their backgrounds as metasearch platforms, both Tripadvisor and Kayak have deep understanding of travelers needs and preferences.
“We are there to be a resource for creative agencies on behalf of their client or advertising agencies or marketing, or PR agencies on behalf of … clients to help with creative execution in the travel space,” Ochman said.
“We understand our community. We understand the traveler better than anybody.”
Kayak feels the same about its ability to effectively reach its clients’ desired audiences. “Travelers rely on Kayak for inspiration on where to go and who to book with,” Askov Christoffersen said. “With Kayak Media’s customized marketing solutions, we can target active and undecided travelers and convert them into loyal customers.”
Future growth plans
After some time at work, Kayak and Tripadvisor are ready to invest in growing their in-house media studios.
“Wanderlab and the entire media business is a big focus for Tripadvisor,” said Casey Brogan, communications manager for Tripadvisor. “We know there’s a lot more opportunity and more we’re going to be continuing to prioritize.”
Brogan would not specify how much revenue Wanderlab has brought in for Tripadvisor or how much of an investment in the content studio the company plans to make in the future.
But the first year provided plenty of learning opportunities, according to Ochman, and he expects growth to continue.
“I think it’s going to be because of that ‘test and learn,’ and we have a year’s worth of learning under our belt,” he said. “It’s going to get more innovative as well. It’s not going to be [innovative] for the sake of creating something cool. It’s going to be impactful innovation where we’re servicing a need for our community that is on the forefront of technology. And again, maybe that’s [artificial intelligence], maybe that’s just a new way of building a voice campaign and maybe it’s a new experiential activation.”
The last year at Kayak Media – its second in existence – was focused on growth, according to Askov Christoffersen, noting Kayak Media sought to grow its client portfolio, its marketing solutions and services and overall business growth.
“Kayak Media will continue contributing to Kayak’s multifaceted business model by delivering on the demand from our partners, to further engage with our travelers through storytelling and leveraging our powerful data and insights,” Askov Christoffersen said.
And it’s important for Kayak Media to keep an eye on travelers’ preferences, he said, noting it’s “crucial” to continuously update how they are holding onto their audience’s attention. He added that Kayak Media plans to meet travelers wherever they are, whether that be social media, video content, through artificial intelligence, etc.
Despite the companies’ positive feelings toward their in-house media ventures, Cole expressed skepticism about the ability to drive conversions.
“I see experimentation, but the OTAs and metasearch players — and, to be honest, most travel suppliers as well — have not yet cracked the code to efficiently convert inspiration-oriented travel spend straight into monetized booking conversion,” Cole said.
There’s a lot of what Cole called “spray and pray spending” across the travel industry. “The ones I see executing the best have a strong foundation in tracking performance metrics and the ability to perform multivariate tests to identify the best performing creatives and campaigns against specific market segments and traveler personas.”
The Phocuswright Conference
Join us in Fort Lauderdale November 13-16 to hear from industry leaders including Tripadvisor CEO Matt Goldberg.