Vacations Provide No Respite From Gadgets

A large majority of American families stay wired during their vacations--with 85 percent bringing cell phones, 75 percent bringing digital cameras, 35 percent bringing portable CD players, and 33 percent bringing portable gaming devices along for the ride. Meanwhile, 87 percent said they plan to check personal e-mail, and 36 percent will keep up on work-related e-mail.

Those are among the key findings of a new study by InsightExpress released Thursday. Insight earlier this month surveyed 530 adults over the age of 18, with at least one child under the age of 18--all of whom planned to take a family vacation this summer. Although the study deliberately focused on families, it contradicted conventional wisdom that children adopt gadgets more readily than adults: according to Insight, only 7 percent of respondents said that "love of technology is just a kid thing" during vacations.

Of the top four devices families will be bringing with them on their vacations, only one--the cell phone--serves to connect users to distant partners or media for communications purposes, somewhat limiting the potential scope of ad messaging. But with more and more cell phones able to connect to e-mail and the Web, download music, and deliver video, this device may be all the platform advertisers need.

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"A lot of these communications and media functions are already folded into a single device," said Kevin Kruper, group director for the technology center for InsightExpress. "Given how far technology has already penetrated into everyone's lives, it's clear that the kinds of ad messaging this technology supports will be right there too."

Family vacations are a prime time for making consumer purchase decisions, of course--with a focus on transportation, lodging, entertainment, and dining. According to a study published by Mintel International Group in 2005, in 2004 Americans spent a total of $115.3 billion on "long vacations," defined as "trips of more than five nights away from home, with at least a one-night stay in paid accommodation."

In this context, the spread of two-way digital channels represents an unprecedented opportunity for advertisers, Kruper noted: "If you think about how new technology allows folks to be tracked, and how this kind of information can be stored, the ability for advertisers to capture vacation-goers in the moment will be more and more critical and highly sought. I mean--just imagine if you could catch a family of four while they're at Disney World."

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