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Why TripAdvisor Embraced TV Ads

In a sign of how competitive the online travel space is becoming, TripAdvisor has embarked on a $30 million TV ad campaign after years of marketing only online.

While online travel companies are more familiar with the web terrain, many have looked to TV to provide greater reach. CMO Today chatted with TripAdvisor’s chief marketing officer Barbara Messing about why the firm opted to spend ad dollars on TV and the results.

CMO TODAY: How is TV working out for TripAdvisor?

We had been a very successful brand for many years without doing any TV advertising, and we built the brand through word of mouth, great PR efforts, SEO. We got to a stage where we thought we had an opportunity to reach the folks who didn’t know about us, even though we are a giant brand. We knew there was a whole world we hadn’t reached yet, and we thought TV would be a great channel to test. So we started in earnest in Q2 and we spent about $10 million in Q2 and we’re happy with our results. We saw a nice uptick in traffic in the key markets we were looking at and we like our creative a lot.

Why get into TV now, especially when digital advertising seems to be the hottest sector?

TV is a very powerful channel. TV gives you the opportunity to tell a story in a visually rich, long form way, more than you can do through a display ad or even through a PR article. We just felt like there was an opportunity to have our brand be top of mind for all these travelers who had been exposed to other travel brands through TV for many years. It’s really about driving awareness for that segment of folks that don’t think of us when they think about booking travel.

Is the plan to still spend $30 million?

That’s right. Our plan is to spend $30 million and that hasn’t changed. We launched in Canada last week and we continue to look at new markets and finding places where there’s a real story to tell.

Travel is a very competitive space these days. You’ve got Airbnb, for example. How do you think about marketing in that context?

We are seeing lots of advertising in the travel category and a couple new entrants. I believe you can certainly spend your way to awareness [laughs]. That’s certainly a strategy that some folks can do. I’m really confident in our ability to break through with all the other travel advertisers there. It certainly is a robust market now. It’s a good time to be in TV advertising.

People are advertising with different strategies. Some are more response oriented and some are trying to drive awareness. For us, it’s getting those people who are planning trips to understand the difference-maker TripAdvisor can be.

How do you differentiate yourself from other review type sites, such as Yelp?

Yelp is not in travel. They don’t have any booking capabilities for booking trips. We have the reviews and opinions and over 19 million candid photos taken by real travelers. We have a meta engine that lets people shop and compare prices. For us it’s not just about the singular booking moment, it’s about the whole trip as informed by the community. Yelp is interesting in the services category it’s in, but in the travel category we are the most global and deep company in terms of our community, reviews, and opinions.