Advertisers crafting contextual advertising campaigns based on literal keyword search-based actions or past guest actions are losing the war in what I’m calling “moments that matter”.
The movement toward real contextual, more humanized advertising is still much in its infancy and most advertisers just haven’t grasped or mastered its true potential.
NB: This is a viewpoint from Peter Brooke, CEO of Blue Interactive Agency.
The result is irrelevant, inappropriate, ill-timed, often outdated messages that fail to connect you to your guests in a meaningful way and in some instances, actually harm your brand perception.
The word “contextual” comes from the Latin word “con” and “texere”, which basically means to weave together or “the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.”
In hotel advertising, the “clarification of meaning” translates into a building of that coveted positive guest relationship and brand loyalty that relevant communication delivers.
Most of today’s advertisers simply aren’t capitalizing on the anticipated future need of the guest based on context and with regard to their demographic, age, gender, relationship status, previous buying habits with you, etc., and most importantly, where the guest is in the buying cycle.
Instead, advertisers see contextual advertising as a literal extension to the keyword search campaign by means of scanning the text of a website for keywords and returning advertisements to the webpage based on those keywords. This is called in-text advertising, and it’s based solely on a keyword trigger irrespective of any other factor.
As an example, if a guest makes a reservation on your hotel website, the presence of remarketing ads that continue to show your room rate in online ads where your future guest is surfing weakens your ability to establish a strong guest relationship or make a genuine connection with him or her.
The awkwardness grows exponentially, if for instance, you have your remarketing campaign set for 90 days, and the ad is popping up long after the guest stay and way past the point of any relevancy. It’s no wonder that most contextual advertising campaigns show a ton of impressions, a few clicks and almost zero conversion!
An extreme example of this was recently captured on the NBC News site where an ad for Liam Neeson's kidnap-themed movie, “A Walk among the Tombstones”, shows as a pre-teaser for the video on missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. There’s no winning over buyers in a delicate moment that matters like this.
The advertiser mindlessly set the video ad to run on the word “kidnapping” or current news and left it on auto-pilot to get the most exposure. Here, instead of humans choosing placement options, computers remotely facilitate the placement across thousands of websites rather than real contextual placement that thoughtful media planning would incorporate.
Google’s Take Contextual advertising can be delivered across many formats today—video, image, text as well as mobile ads. Google AdSense is the first and now the largest display network service provider in today’s market targeting these formats. Its ads serve more than two million websites.
Digital analysis by comScore shows that 65% of the top 200 websites are served by the Google display network which equates to 94% of the US internet users—of which 65% are reached every day—and 90% of global internet users. All of this equates to more than a trillion impressions each month.
Google’s head travel guru Rob Torres nailed it at last year’s Hotel Data Conference saying:
"We have an abundance of data available. … More and more people just get inundated. Those that win are the ones that actually will use the most relevant data."
He went on to say:
"… really personalization is key to winning this game. More and more folks are all about relevancy. … I want that personalized experience."
Gogobot - a pioneer in relevance
One of the first travel companies to try and make sense of contextual search is Gogobot which effectively narrows down selections and delivers more relevant, intelligent results for a particular search. It demonstrates exactly what Rob Torres is saying, and the results speak for themselves.
A full 93% of Gogobot’s traffic is organic, and leads to its hotel booking partners have grown 10-fold over the last 12 months. Revenues have picked up and I wouldn’t be surprised if Darren Huston’s booking.com acquisition team hawks are circling it.
Keys to winning the moments that matter
So how do you win the moments that matter and run a successful, real converting contextual advertising campaign?
The first key is simply being there to make sure your hotel website and ad campaign are optimized for all devices as well as search, video, display and actual content. Your potential hotel guest conversion could involve multiple devices in the buying cycle, and you want to be present for every stage of the sales funnel and across the web.
The second key involves being relevant to the guest’s intent and context in terms of device, location and time. Contextual display advertising should be based on content, behavior, demographics and interests.
The last key requires being optimized in terms of format and with your creative and measuring all the types of conversions, both online and offline. The data should be analyzed through a thorough reporting tool that allows you to continuously improve on past campaigns.
Real trends, real context
The problem is not with user digital consumption. We spend a big part of our day on some sort of device—mobile, tablet or at work on a laptop or desktop. Look at friends, family and your own online communication habits. We all turn to digital in the moments that matter: first days of school, death in the family, birthdays, anniversaries, kids going to college, promotions, new business openings, a family vacation or getting the new iPhone.
In fact, The Huffington Post recently showed that American Facebook members spend an average of 40 minutes per day on the social network—about as much time as Americans devote to household chores and personal grooming.
The champs in digital advertising will capitalize on context and these key moments that matter.
There is also this very clear trend that the mobile phone is quickly becoming the remote control of our life. It can unlock doors, start cars and a million and one other tasks with apps that Tim Cook can sell you.
Wearables such as the Apple/Samsung watches feed advertisers never-before-accessible biometrics that could indicate when someone is hungry or thirsty without that person realizing it. Interactive televisions will become data points that advertisers can use to target consumers, combined with an ever growing faster internet.
Real contextual advertising’s main focus will try to connect relevant ads that are optimized for a single individual—with the most essential point being that there are moments when we want ads and offers and when the moment passes, we don’t. Don’t sell me a suitcase after I get back from my trip!
NB: This is a viewpoint from Peter Brooke, CEO of Blue Interactive Agency
NB2: Man with apps image via Shutterstock.