At long last, leisure travel is making a comeback, but reopening isn’t like flipping on a light switch. With consumer demand outpacing the advertising spend from airlines and cruise line companies, travel brands can’t just dust off their old media plans. Here’s how travel brands can use Connected TV (CTV) to adopt a consumer-centric media strategy that meets the moment.
Time to hit the road: A quick overview of today’s travelers
Looking at recent consumer sentiment surveys, it’s clear that travel brands must engage audiences in more nuanced ways than ever before. After all, people are traveling to a range of new places for a variety of reasons.
A recent survey from Resonate found that one in three Americans believe leisure travel will resume in August. And as we observed in our recent consumer insights report, consumers are looking forward to travelling once again. Overall, 41% of consumers say they hope to travel at some point in 2021. Of those who say they plan to travel this year, 63% say they plan to do so in the summer, while roughly one-third of respondents say they’d likely travel in the fall and winter.
In terms of age demographics, the intent to travel appears to be skewing toward younger age groups at the moment. Our study found that consumers ages of 25-34 are the most likely cohort to make travel plans within their state. Meanwhile, 18-24 year olds and 35-44 year olds are nearly twice as likely to travel abroad than consumers over 45.
Finally, for those planning to travel domestically, but outside of their home state, 54% plan to drive and 46% plan to fly to their desired destination. One factor that may be behind the driving-flying split is the comfort level of individual travelers. This is perfectly natural. So, it’s a good idea for advertisers to be aware of different comfort levels so that they can offer travelers a variety of options.
Why CTV is key
Traditionally, travel brands have had longer lead times and the benefit of historical travel patterns to identify and engage with prospective customers. But the speed and timing of reopening has collapsed the traditional consumer decision-making cycle. At the moment, consumers are booking their travel plans roughly one to three months ahead of time, according to our consumer study. As a result, brands need to move quickly and move in concert with consumers’ timetables.
As audience viewership continues to transition from linear TV to CTV and consumer privacy rules become more stringent, advertisers will face two key challenges in the digital world. First, they must understand how all of the various channels in their media mix work in concert with one another to optimize audience reach, performance and strategic planning. Second, they need a way to reach relevant consumers based on which content they’re increasingly engaged with on the big screen. Thanks to the proliferation of CTV — according to Leichtman Research Group, 82% of US TV households have at least one internet-connected TV device — advertisers can now rely more confidently on CTV to both illuminate the broader media mix and conduct more effective audience targeting.
It’s also important for advertisers to understand how CTV plays with other audience data types. Behavioral, location and social data can all be layered into a CTV campaign helping to ensure that brand messages are going to the right audiences, at the right times, on the right devices. In fact, one of our clients — a major travel brand — recently leveraged CTV and multiple layers of third-party data to reach incremental unique consumers. The campaign, which targeted frequent travelers between the ages of 25-44, exceeded its engagement KPIs by delivering a 94% total video completion rate (VCR).
Here’s what we’ve seen work so far
As brands ramp up to engage with consumers who are seeking travel again, we’re seeing a range of strategies that are proving effective in optimizing campaign performance. Here are a few worth noting:
- Rethink your assumptions about your audience. Not everyone is going to return to travel at the same time, so brands need to focus their efforts where they’re most likely to pay off. By leveraging data about online viewing behaviors, brands can zero in on consumers who are actively raising their hands for specific brands or destinations. By using unified social data, brands can reach consumers who have indicated their interest in — or intentions for — upcoming travel via their engagement behavior on their preferred social media platforms.
- Reach travelers who had to cancel trips in 2020. While not everyone who adjusted their plans is willing or able to travel right away, those who did cancel because of the pandemic represent something of a hybrid between strong intenders and repeat customers.
- Customize your creative. One of CTV’s key advantages is that brands can customize and optimize their creative and messaging in a manner that more closely resembles digital workflows, as opposed to what’s required for linear TV. Brands can deploy dynamic formats like branded frames and overlays, QR codes for CTV and end cards to tailor their messages and calls-to-action to highly specific audiences.
Of course, the ability to adjust and optimize creative on the fly is always a valuable capability to have. But it’s especially valuable now because local conditions can change quickly, and reopening brings with it an evolving set of questions around safety and availability that can directly impact the decisions travelers make. Brands that use CTV to adapt to the dynamic needs of consumers in those moments will put themselves in a position to capture the business and loyalty of those travelers going forward.