Programmatic Video Moves The Needle For Travel

If programmatic video is the future of advertising, then, in the words of the great science fiction writer William Gibson, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” The distribution varies from industry to industry, simply because some are better suited than others. Accounting, for instance, may benefit less from great video ads than travel. 

Here’s a figure from a recent Google report that should have travel brands running towards video: at any given time, 106 million of YouTube’s monthly unique visitors are travelers. That means, at a very minimum, 106 million hotel rooms, 106 million flights, 106 million cars could at any time be booked and rented online. And that’s just YouTube. We’re not counting Facebook video, Snapchat and live video services like Periscope.

Typically, video has been considered more of an upper-funnel tactic, and creatives have relied on it more than the “data types.” However, with the wealth of data at our fingertips, video is now more about the audience — regardless of where in the funnel. Engagement with video ads is higher than with display campaigns and non-skippable video formats, in particular, tend to boast quite high view rates, helping to deliver their message. The same Google report shows that 3 in 5 travelers who watched online video used it “to narrow down their brand, destination, or activity choices.”



To give you just one example of how that works: in travel we often talk about a specific phase on the path-to-purchase known as “the dream phase,” the exploratory research that translates into early travel searches. For instance, in the U.S., between October and December of 2015, more people planned for long-haul travel than during any other time of the year (the final quarter of 2014 showed similar findings, so the trend holds year-on-year).

Imagine you see someone searching in December for Greek islands and the south of France and beaches in Thailand — then you know they are in dream phase, and that they have decided on sun and sea, but not on a precise location. That’s the perfect moment to hit them with that video ad from the Greek island tourism board. At no other time on the path-to-purchase will they be as likely to be influenced by that ad as they are now, in the dream phase.

We already know that programmatic video buying is seeing broad adoption and steady growth, now accounting for more than a third of all digital video dollars spent. The world of travel is no exception to this trend. And no wonder: Video click-through rates tend to be higher than display rates and video advertising helps get increased conversions; just think about the difference between a static banner ad for a blue rooftop in Mykonos versus a drone-shot video of its splendid beaches. Video is simply more memorable than a static image and some industries, like travel, where imagery can be so powerful and immersive, are particularly well-suited to deploying programmatic video ads.

If you’re looking to improve your brand recognition and build brand loyalty, video is your best bet: According to Google, 65% of YouTube TrueView campaigns drove a significant lift in brand interest, with an average lift of 13%. The real power of programmatic advertising comes from data, which is irreplaceable in the travel marketer’s toolbox to understand and reach an audience when it’s most likely to convert.

If you are a marketer and are considering employing programmatic video as a tactic in 2017, here’s some advice: Make it targeted, keep it short and put it on mute! Don’t waste your dollars on video if you’re not going to find the exact slice of audience who will find your ad helpful and not intrusive; recent research shows that consumers overwhelmingly prefer videos without sound and shorter than 10 seconds.

Also, as a bonus — keep an eye out for Snapchat, which may soon emerge as a powerful platform for serving programmatic video.

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