Time to think about proof points, not banners, with digital advertising in travelNewsBy Viewpoints | August 2, 2013Share This article was originally published on NB: This is a viewpoint from Layton Han, CEO of Adara.The average banner ad has a miserable click-through rate (CTR) of 0.1 percent, according to interactive marketing news resource ClickZ.And the fact is that click-throughs don’t automatically convert to sales.It’s spurred relentless debate over banner ad effectiveness. But ultimately, the issue comes down to thinking that’s more substantial than the quality of creative, where the banner is placed on a page, or whether or not a "native" approach (think sponsored Tweets) is used.Because the issue really lies less with the ads themselves as a vehicle for messaging than with the underlying strategy for where and how banner ads are being used. Ultimately, it’s an issue of the quality of the data that facilitates campaigns that work.Whether you’re tapping into digital advertising platforms, networks, or other data resources, it’s important to understand how (or whether) they are poised to deliver across the key proof-points that, combined, will make those tired old banner ads work harder and more effectively than the naysayers would have you think.These include:1. Audience – exact, not inferred, preferredToday’s vast amount of data available – transactional, behavioral and attitudinal – allows a deeper and more nuanced view of targeted traveler audiences and greater opportunities for highly targeted outreach.But here are some considerations to help you weigh the quality of the audience data, which can make a big difference in campaign outcomes.First is the issue of inferred audiences, which many data platforms serve up, or look-alikes based on web surfing behaviors. What you want are real people, not constructs, based on their exact behaviors so that you can create offers that align precisely with their actions.Second is the timeliness of the audience data. Is it a week old or fresh – as in real time? How much more effective is it to reach a prospect with your message within a day of a triggering transaction, versus a week?Audience issues ultimately come down to the question of sourcing and the difference in quality between first- and third-party data.First party data comes directly from the source, making it more precise for profiling and timing purposes.For the travel sector, for example, first-party data would be collected directly from airlines, hotels and car rental agencies, rather than a data aggregator.2. ...the better to target audiences with timely offersAdvertising that is highly targeted to audience needs, behaviors and transactions is a key objective of marketers.It can be done with increasingly high levels of precision given the volume of data being generated in this Big Data era, as advertisers have more options to finely segment according to their needs.Beyond volume, however, it’s the quality of the audience data – that it’s real people, real time, and pure from a sourcing perspective – enables campaigns that are precision targeted and render the best results.Consider this travel example: If you know I clicked on a travel site once, you can infer that I have an interest in travel. But if you know that I just booked an airline ticket to London, that is immediately actionable information, as I’m a potential customer for London hotels, international calling plans, etc. You can target me with a relevant offer in next-to real time. Plus if you also know I travel four times a month, typically during the week, and stay in upscale hotels, you know that I’m a good target for business hotels in London and advertise accordingly.3. Achieving scale without compromising qualityThe issue on scale is two-fold. Is the audience grouping big enough to be worth allocating campaign dollars to be pursuing?More importantly, has scale been achieved without sacrificing quality? This gets into a sticky wicket, as "quality" is a subjective concept.First-party data are generally well-understood and the quality provable, but third-party data isn’t rated, nor is there a neutral resource to measure its accuracy.Weighing the sourcing of the data will determine if the quality and the scale of the audience are sufficient to drive campaigns that achieve better results.4. Campaigns that reflect audience mobilityThese days, use of mobile devices is outstripping the desktop. In another travel example, JiWire, a mobile ad platform, found that more than half its 1,300 customers surveyed in this year’s first quarter had booked travel on a mobile device, and were willing to spend more than $500 on their mobile travel purchases.To achieve economies and ensure reach, ad campaigns need to be optimized across phone, tablet and desktop computer.The challenge, however, is that most digital advertising platforms haven’t tied these channels together for campaign purposes by collecting common customer identifiers across them to facilitate integrated campaigns.5. Gain meaningful insights to campaigns and customersOn one hand, the quality of insights you are able to collect about your campaigns themselves – what worked and what didn’t – is important to making critical adjustments and revisions that will enable continued improvement in results over time.But it’s also important to be able to tap into the eco-system of customer data (tracking behaviors and transactions, for example) so you have a dynamic portrait of your customers over time guiding your way.Finding data partners that will deliver across all five proof points is not easy, but basic due diligence will go a long way to ensuring data that provides the basis for more effective campaigns.This means asking how data is sourced, and confirming that it’s audited or validated by an independent, third-party.Ask for references, along with case studies and testimonials. And make sure your provider has the range, volume, activity and track record to support your campaign goals.Here’s to a vital, data-led digital advertising environment for travel marketers.NB: This is a viewpoint from Layton Han, CEO of Adara.NB2:Marketing travel image via Shutterstock.