Especially after winters like the one we had this year, getting frozen visitors to flee to Florida can’t be all that difficult. Except for the competition. Last year, nearly 95 million tourists came through the Sunshine State.
In Panama City Beach, Fl., the convention and tourism board that has been using digital for years, in 2013 let PointRoll provide a cross-screen strategy, and the results were impressive: Panama City Beach had an 8% jump in its bed-tax revenue that Susan Estler, the vice president of marketing for the tourist spot, attributes largely to the digital campaign. Altogether, Panama City Beach had 14 million visitors.
Probably like a lot of Florida seaside tourist destinations, Panama City Beach advertises to different segments of the population at different times. Right now, it’s pitching to families for summer and even fall vacations—it gets a lot of visitors from other parts of the South—but in the fall it aims its online advertising to the snowbirds up north and in Canada.
(In March, when Spring Break students flood Florida, the convention and tourism execs more or less let merchants handle the ad campaign and hope Spring Breakers don’t go too wild. They often do.)
But in a competitive environment, the overall online results are impressive. The Panama City Beach campaign from Fahlgren Mortine working with PointRoll drove 108,734 Website visits in just six months, after consumers saw ads online, and that resulted in 7,500 entries for an online contest that proved to be a potent lure.
PointRoll says 75% saw the Panama City Beach ads to completion and that the average time spent was nearly 33 seconds.
“We’ve done digital for awhile and it’s a part of our wheelhouse,” says Estler. “Our media buyer likens it to a Dagwood sandwich. There’s part television, part print and part digital. But last year what we tried to do was have a standardized metric for everything we were doing across the board, and that was because we were using PointRoll. Having that consistent measurement and not having to rely solely on Google analytics makes a big difference.”
Estler said her ad agency made small tweaks to the ad campaign throughout, but that wasn’t hard to do, “because you can make those changes quickly with digital.”
The digital experience wasn’t totally new—after the BP oil spill in 2010, Panama City Beach, relatively early, hopped on Facebook, Twitter and other social media to promote itself.
Panama City Beach tourism fell just 2% that year amid endless news footage of oil-drenched seabirds. “That’s pretty miraculous,” Estler says, pointing to solid gains year after year since. Social is still crucial. In last year’s campaign, Panama City Beach gained 14,000 new Facebook fans and almost 24,000 new YouTube views.
A more coordinated online campaign was an easy sell with her board, she says, because, “They saw the success and the value of communicating on social media, and they were really impressed that results were so measurable.”