Welcome to Scout! Each week, our team tracks down the best digital marketing articles, POVs, and reports—so you don't have to. Here’s what to read from the week of 6/2/23 - 6/8/23 to stay ahead of the curve:

Twitter’s U.S. Ad Sales Plunge 59% as Woes Continue [:06]

Elon Musk may insist that most of Twitter’s advertisers have returned, but the numbers appear to tell a different story: US ad revenue is down 59% from a year ago. It’s likely this decrease has been driven by factors like the increase in hate speech and problematic content on the platform, which recently led Ben and Jerry’s to stop paid advertising on the platform (a development that speaks to the larger problem at hand).

As Snap and Meta Lose Momentum, Out-of-Home Advertising Gains Steam [:07]

Twitter isn’t the only social giant losing ad spend: In response to turbulence both related to the economy and within the world of social media, some advertisers have shifted their spend away from platforms like Snap and Meta, leading to an uptick in spend in OOH and DOOH. This piece explores the latest numbers, as well as the reasons behind these trends.

Apple Debuts Vision Pro AR/VR Headset at WWDC [:02]

At its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple unveiled Apple VisionPro, its new AR/VR headset. While its advertising capabilities are yet to be known, one thing is for sure: The $3,499 price tag had conference attendees clutching their pearls, not grabbing their Apple Wallets.

Amazon Prime Reportedly Weighing Ad-Supported Streaming Tier—Joining Netflix And Disney [:03]

In the wake of other cost-cutting strategies, including some major layoffs, Amazon reportedly plans to join the ad-tier streaming world, à la Netflix, Max, and Disney+. TV advertising is one fast-moving drama these days, no?!

How Advertising Automation Can Help You Through the Identity Crisis (as Told by Taylor Swift) [:04]

We know, we know, the looming loss of third-party cookies and the implications of our industry’s larger identity crisis is a stressful topic. But you know what makes it less stressful? Taylor Swift. Yup. Here, forget your stress and enjoy a Billboard Hot 100-worthy love story between privacy-friendly advertising and advertising automation (it’s more romantic than it sounds, we promise!).

Test Your Digital Advertising Knowledge!

Show off your marketing chops with our question of the week. This week’s hot topic: CTA conversions.

True or false: It’s best practice to offer multiple choices to audiences when crafting a CTA (i.e., offering different levels of services or methods to sign up).

  1. True
  2. False

Get the answer, plus a deep dive into 15 best practices to increase CTA conversions, right here.

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While swifties are enjoying their Eras era, the world of adtech is grappling with its identity crisis era. Under pressure from regulators and consumers alike, advertisers are working to balance the demand for personalization with the need for increased data privacy. And while many marketers might wish they could just shake it off (à la 2014 Taylor), the need for privacy-friendly advertising solutions isn’t going anywhere.

If, like TSwift, you know this challenge all too well, then this post is for you. Though there’s no quick fix to the identity crisis, there are tools and solutions that can help.

One of the most powerful solutions for advertisers to have in their identity crisis toolkit? Digital advertising automation. Today, we’re exploring how advertising automation can help marketers survive—and, dare we say, thrive—as they navigate the identity crisis.  

As we wrote this post, we couldn’t help but notice how seamlessly TSwift references and puns slipped their way into it. Maybe it’s because she’s secretly a marketing whiz; or perhaps it’s because we’ve been spending hours each day bingeing videos from her Eras tour. Whatever the reason, buckle up for a deep dive into how automation can help your team through the identity crisis—as told through a collection of Taylor Swift lyrics, song titles, and gifs.

Let's dig in.

Why is adtech facing an identity crisis?  

Long story short: the conflicting demands for increased data privacy and for personalized advertising experiences are coming to a head.

Was Taylor Swift talking about these competing pressures when she wrote this line?

To add a bit more detail: Over the past several years, more and more data privacy-focused regulations and changes have popped up (both in the US and across the globe), including the impending deprecation of third-party cookies in Google Chrome.

Who knew third-party cookies could develop such a big reputation?  

Though there’s a lot of hype around Google, other browsers have long since parted ways with third-party cookies. Couple this with the recent explosion of privacy-related legislation and regulation and the fact that 86% of consumers say they have a growing concern about data privacy, and it’s clear that now is the time for advertisers to explore privacy-friendly solutions.   

To make things even more complex, consumers still want personalized advertising experiences from brands and companies. In fact, 90% of consumers say they enjoy receiving personalized offers, and 56% expect all offers to be personalized.  

It’s a perplexing problem to address. How can marketing teams adapt to the identity crisis and balance the complexities of today’s digital media landscape and still provide personalized advertising experiences that resonate with audiences? It’s a question we’re all figuring out together—but let’s explore how digital advertising automation can help.  

Why is advertising automation key to navigating the identity crisis?

Advertising automation is a term that encompasses a wide range of technologies and strategies aimed at optimizing the campaign process from start to finish. And if it sounds like something out of your wildest dreams, we get it. We’re enchanted by it too (Too many TSwift song references in a row? Sorry, [we’re] not sorry!) Especially within the context of the privacy-first transition, automation can simplify marketers’ jobs in many ways:   

1. It automates the collection and maximization of first-party data.

In the privacy-centric present, first-party data is of the utmost importance. Since it’s data that audiences willingly give to brands and companies, it is inherently privacy-friendly and allows for accuracy in personalization and targeting. As such, it’s something that, in the words of Taylor Swift, will never go out of style.

But what does automation have to do with first-party data? Since it is collected and housed in a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, the process of uploading this CRM data can often be complicated and time-consuming. By using an advertising automation platform with built-in integrations that allow direct uploading of CRM data, advertisers can speed up the process and access targetable audiences with greater ease.

2. It saves marketing teams time and resources.

The average advertiser uses seven platforms in a typical day and nine in a typical campaign. NINE. DIFFERENT. PLATFORMS.

Same, Taylor. We feel the same.

Embracing advertising automation means consolidating those point solutions into a single, universal platform where teams can handle every stage of the campaign—from planning, to automated media buying, to reporting and billing.

Making this shift can significantly free up marketers’ time and energy, thus allowing and empowering them to test different privacy-friendly solutions and determine those that work best for their brand and audiences.

3. It makes it easier to create personalized advertising experiences.

Remember how we mentioned that consumers not only want increased privacy, but also want personalized ads? Yeah, like TSwift once said, it’s a delicate balance (okay, we might be paraphrasing, but you get the gist). Luckily, advertising automation makes it easier to use the latest technological advances to reach audiences with personalized messaging.

For example, artificial intelligence-enabled predictive modeling can help advertisers to quickly identify audiences and serve them personalized placements. And dynamic creative optimization (DCO) offers the ability to automatically craft thousands of creative variations to serve to distinct audiences.

Wrapping Up: Getting Out of the Woods of the Identity Crisis

Just remember—if Taylor made it out of these woods, you can make it out of the identity crisis.

Advertisers today face a significant challenge: They must connect with audiences in privacy-friendly ways, while still personalizing ads based on individual consumers’ wants, needs, and preferences. Advertising automation is a powerful solution that can free up marketing teams’ time and resources, as well as allow them to create impactful, personalized advertising experiences.

To sum it up, identity crisis + advertising automation = 

__

Learn more about the power of advertising automation with our guide Meeting the Moment with Advertising Automation.

It can entice a swipe up, a sign-up, or even a bona fide conversion. Of the many elements that your ad needs to contain, the call to action (or CTA) is one of the most important.

Why? Because your CTA is what gets your audience to do what you want them to do. It will often be the first thing they see in your ad, so it has to be compelling. It needs to cut through the noise of the thousands of other ads that vie for a consumer’s attention, so it has to be memorable. And, it must communicate what action you want someone to take, so it has to be crystal clear.

In the spirit of making your CTA as strong as it can be, below are 15 best practices that will lead to higher returns and a greater number of conversions.

1. Make sure you have a visible CTA

We know, this one might seem obvious! But it’s not uncommon for landing pages to fail because the CTA is either buried in other content or missing altogether. In some cases, marketers fail to set the CTA apart from their other text. In others, they provide too many options—or they have a button but fail to ask for any compelling action.

Your CTA should be easy to see and understand. Set it apart from the other text by adding space and making it large and distinct enough to convert. Do not trust that someone will click through to a services page, home page, or any other page without explicitly saying that’s what you want. The action you want them to take should be spelled out clearly right on the landing page.

2. Use action-oriented language

Remember, your CTA is a call to action. Think about the various actions your visitors could complete, and use the most action-oriented copy possible. "Receive our newsletter" doesn't have quite the same punch as "Check out our newsletter" or "Sign up to read more." The first example is passive—it describes what will happen to your prospect after they do what you want. Instead, focus on what you want them to do.

By using action verbs and concise language, audiences will feel more compelled to participate. Tried-and-true options like "Buy now," "Sign up," and "Register" all fall within this category.

However, you can also write a CTA that focuses on the results that users will get. "Jumpstart your tech career," for instance, can drive someone to sign up for an online course. "Learn the secret to high conversions" can get someone intrigued enough to sign up for your free report on landing pages.

3. Experiment with color

The color of your CTA button and text could be the most decisive factor between a successful landing page and one that compels fewer conversions. Testing a range of color options can help you figure out which are most likely to work well with your audience.

Studies show that red is a hot (pun slightly intended) color for CTA button success. However, marketers should also take into account other design elements on a page to ensure the CTA button stands out and remains an appealing part of the design. An orange button on a red background, for example, may not be visible enough to make an impact (or aesthetically pleasing enough for someone to stay on the page long enough to read it!)

Experiment with several combinations to determine which works best. One quick trick is to step back and squint at the page. Can you still see your CTA button even when you can't make out the details? Does it fit nicely into the rest of the page while still being noticeable? These are signs of good CTA button design.

4. Play around with CTA button shapes

Do you find yourself using the same rectangle every time you create a CTA button? Try changing shapes to see if it improves your results. While the most popular shapes for CTA buttons are rounded or squared-off rectangles, other shapes like scalloped edges or ovals can also be effective. To see what works with your audience, A/B test different options and record the results.

You can also play with effects and even subtle animations to see if these draw results. Try an animated version, for instance, that changes color every so often, or one that gives a small shake after a few seconds. Too much of a good thing can be annoying, but minor effects can stand out just enough to elicit attention. If you find a combination that seems to have a positive effect, make note of your results so you can repeat them for your next campaign.

5. Make the text large and visible, but not too big

A large and easy-to-read CTA is imperative: Someone glancing at the CTA for half a second should easily be able to read and parse your text.

That being said, make sure you also don't go too far in the other direction. CTA text that is far larger than the text around it can come off as obnoxious or demanding. Readers may find themselves subconsciously put off by text that is too big.

To make sure your CTA text and button are the right size, try looking at your page in a number of browsers and on a number of devices. While responsive design should be able to make every element work well, this extra step ensures that everything is working correctly, and allows you to put yourself in your prospect's position to truly see what they'll see when they arrive at your page.

6. Keep your CTA short

CTA writers are faced with a double-edged sword: The CTAs they create must be specific, but they also only have a moment to get the point across. Too many words can mess with your design, leaving you with text that is too small or a button that is too large. It can also dull the impact you want your CTA to have.

To stay on the safe side, write CTAs that are between two and five words long. Try rearranging and eliminating words until you have distilled your message down to its essence.

If you are worried about losing important details, consider making additional landing pages that focus on different aspects of a campaign. For instance, one could focus on the fact that what you have is a limited-time offer, and another could focus on the free-trial aspect.

7. Make your CTA accessible

Up to 1 in 4 adults in the US has some sort of disability, some of which cause difficulties in reading or understanding CTAs. As such, it’s key to prioritize accessibility in marketing to ensure that your content can reach as many people as possible. Here are a few accessibility best practices for CTAs:

8. Create a sense of urgency with time-oriented wording

One of the strongest impulses marketers must work with is their prospect's fear of missing out. By adding a time-oriented message or scarcity to your CTA, you can create a sense of urgency that will keep them from delaying their action and create conversions.

Time-oriented words like "now" and "today" are obvious choices. However, you can also create urgency by intimating future events. For instance, "register before your competition" plants the idea that this is a chance for them to get an advantage that their competitors haven't found...yet.

9. Try putting it above the fold

You want as little friction between your prospect and the desired action as possible. Just removing the need to scroll can significantly increase your conversions. A CTA that is high on the page can grab a prospect's attention right away. Additional information that is not vital to their action but is an important part of your argument can go down below.

Putting your CTA above the fold also makes you think more critically about the other information that is posted. You have no time for throat-clearing and introductions when it comes to converting a new web visitor. Focusing on the text above the fold makes you think extra hard about what information your prospect needs to see to make up their mind. A headline, a good CTA, a graphic, and a few short sentences may be more effective than 1000 words on what makes your product better than the competition.

10. Include a value proposition

Your value proposition is just that: the value you propose to offer your prospect. Ideally, it is something they can get from you that is not being offered by your competitors.

What value does your current offer have for your prospect? Is it a free book? A no-credit-card-needed trial? A one-month, non-renewing subscription?

Whether you are offering an exclusive collection or something that is priced far better than your prospects will find anywhere else, let them know this in your CTA. "Save 50% today," for example, lets them know what value is being offered and communicates that the offer is urgent.

Write down your value proposition and figure out how it can be distilled down to a couple of words for a winning CTA. Try to convey it at the beginning or the end of the CTA for maximum impact.

11. Add supporting text nearby

We put a lot of pressure on the two to five little words that make up a CTA, but they don't have to do all the heavy lifting. Adding some supporting bonus text nearby can help increase your CTA’s impact and help you convince your prospect to take the plunge.

Bonus details like "30 days free" or "no credit card needed" can give people the push they need. You can also use space right above or below your CTA button to add elements like testimonials, data points on others' experiences, and other information that can help convince your prospect.

Some examples of bonus text that can help drive audiences to a decision include:

Not every CTA button needs the extra help; many can stand on their own. However, the additional push can often help improve your conversions. As with many of these best practices, it’s important to test different wording and supporting text to see what works best.

12. Don't offer choices

We're often told that an abundance of choice is a good thing. However, according to the paradox of choice, the more choices someone has, the less likely they are to make a decision. Additionally, when they do make a decision, they are less likely to be happy with the one that they've made.

If, for example, you have a service where people can sign up using a third-party option, too many choices can make them hesitate. Do they want to sign up with email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or another service? You can simplify things for your prospect by limiting or eliminating options among their choices.

You may also be tempted to offer three or more sign-up levels to people who land on your service page. While this can sometimes be a positive—offering different levels gives you built-in upsell opportunities—it can also negatively impact conversions. Those who can’t decide which level they want may decide to buy nothing at all. This is another instance when A/B testing is crucial: Test multi-option pages where there's a bronze, silver, and gold option against a page in which you offer just one package to see which gets better conversions.

13. Give it plenty of breathing room

On a landing page, less is definitely more. Instead of thinking of white space (the space that's not occupied by any other element) as "negative space," think of it as an active element for an effective page.

White space around a CTA button can help draw users' attention to it and make them more likely to click. Play with different amounts of padding above and below the button. See if it's more effective when there are sidebars or other elements compared to when your CTA button is the only element in that area of text. By finding which ways are most effective, you can create cleaner, more cohesive pages with better results.

14. Don't make users backtrack

Your landing pages should be easy for your users to navigate. People naturally move from left to right and top to bottom when they are reading a page. Design your page and its CTA in such a way that the page follows people's natural progressions.

Your landing page should always allow readers to follow a natural flow. This is important even when you are experimenting with CTA placement. For instance, consider a layout in which you test putting your CTA above the fold. If you still have additional sales text below, put a second CTA button at the end. That way, people don't need to scroll back up to get to your offer.

15. Test, test, and test again

No matter what you feel you've learned about effective CTAs, it is still important to continue to test and try new things. New technologies mean new behaviors from prospects. As different generations age into their buying years, they'll adopt habits that are different from prior generations. And sometimes, you'll stumble across a CTA idea that goes against established rules, yet is still highly effective.

Wrapping Up

It can be easy to fall into bad habits or stick with the status quo when it comes to your CTAs. But by embracing the best practices discussed in this post, you can optimize your CTAs to generate the best results possible. Over time, you'll find that you are able to create CTAs that get you higher conversions and a better return on your marketing investments.

Check out this descriptive text link and CTA button: Looking to take action on best practices and recent news across digital media? Sign up for the Basis Scout newsletter! Each month, our experts gather the latest tips, tricks, trends, and other valuable information from around the digital marketing world and send it all straight to your inbox.

Welcome to Scout! Each week, our team tracks down the best digital marketing articles, POVs, and reports—so you don't have to. Here’s what to read from the week of 5/26/23 – 6/1/23 to stay ahead of the curve:

Not a Seasonal Cash Grab: Brand Lessons on Engaging With Diverse Creators [:04]

Recently, several companies have received backlash for high-profile LGBTQ+ partnerships. While some brands have doubled down on their support of the community, others have responded by distancing themselves, resulting in understandable outrage from the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. This piece explores why it’s important for companies “to get clear about what they actually stand for, and what they stand against.”    

After 10 straight months of ad spend declines, what’s next for the industry? [:04]

April 2023 saw the downward trend of ad spend continue, including lower ad revenues for some social media platforms and losses in legacy media. That said, April’s drop is the smallest since September 2022, and certain media formats (see: digital and out-of-home) are experiencing growth. It has experts wondering: Could these be signs of a possible rebound for the ad market? 

6 Marketing Challenges in the Travel Industry Today [:08]

It’s a wild world out there for travel marketers. Learn all about the key challenges travel marketing teams should be aware of—from increased demand for personalization, to heightened awareness of prices, to the need for an omnichannel approach—and get strategies marketers can use to address them.

With advertising in flux, Twitter is outsourcing ad monetization to ad tech [:03]

Just weeks after introducing former NBCUniversal media exec Linda Yaccarino as its new CEO, Twitter has begun testing the sale of mobile ad inventory through adtech marketplace Inmobi, signaling a potential move away from its former walled-garden status. 

The Magic of Tech / The Complexity of Humans. [:07]  

In his most recent newsletter, advertising luminary Rishad Tobaccowala explains how successful individuals and companies can decide how best to use technology—with the most successful marrying the magic of tech with the mystery of humanity to differentiate, innovate and turbo-charge talent. (Psst: Be sure to check out more from Rishad on the AdTech Unfiltered podcast!)

Test Your Digital Advertising Knowledge!

Show off your marketing chops with our question of the week. This week’s hot topic: the 2023 upfronts.  

What fraction of ad spend did digital video account for in this year’s upfronts? 

A. Two-thirds 

B. One-half 

C. One-fourth

Get the answer here, as well as a breakdown of how advertisers should approach TV in this moment given the writer’s strike, industry personnel churn, streaming convergence, and more.

— 

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What’s new in the realms of paid search and social media? Basis’ Senior Vice President of Paid Search and Social, Amy Rumpler, compiles all the latest news, trends, and resources each month for easy access.

Meta Outlines Its Evolving AI Ad Targeting Process [:03]

Meta recently announced its new machine learning-based ad delivery process, Meta Lattice. It utilizes knowledge-sharing across Meta’s different surfaces (e.g. News Feed, Stories, Reels) to expand its map of potential user interest and activity. The goal: to better predict likely user behaviors and deliver more relevant ads while using less personal data (important, given how Meta was affected by Apple’s iOS 14 update).

A Look at Google’s AI Search Future [:02]

This video provides a glimpse at how generative AI will further evolve search in the coming months. People in the US can join the waitlist for Google’s new Search Generative Experience (SGE) by tapping the Labs icon in the latest version of the Google app or Chrome desktop.

Amazon Builds AI Search Experience [:02]

Amazon is reportedly “reimagining search with an interactive conversational experience.” Job postings also show they’re ramping up the hiring of engineers in an effort to become an AI powerhouse “that helps you find answers to product questions, perform product comparisons, receive personalized product suggestions, and so much more.”    

Three artificial intelligence articles? AI AI AI caramba!

Highlights from YouTube Brandcast: 2023 [:04]

During this year’s upfronts, YouTube shared a slew of new stats related to the rise of their app on home TV sets. Company leaders also showed how shifts in content consumption are driving innovation and unveiled a few new ad formats, the most notable being a 30-second non-skippable format for YouTube Select on CTV, which replaces two 15-second ads with one 30-second spot.

TikTok World 2023 Centers on Education, Automation [:01]

Among the rollouts at TikTok World 2023 was the new Smart Creative toolset, which automates parts of the content creation process for advertisers who find difficulty in developing native TikTok ad creative. Smart Creative is the content-side complement to Smart Performance campaigns, TikTok’s fully automated ad-buying capability.

Upfronts and expos and ads, oh my!

Pinterest to Partner with Amazon for Third-Party Ad Demand [:01]­­­­­­­­­­­­­

Pinterest has announced they are rolling out third-party ad demand via a partnership with Amazon, starting later this year. As user engagement with shoppable Pinterest content continues to grow, Amazon was selected as the platform's first partner for third-party ads. The partnership will bring more relevant brands and products to Pinterest, combined with a seamless Amazon buying experience for consumers and strong performance for advertisers.

Elon Musk Announces New Twitter CEO, Hints at Aspirations [:01]

Elon Musk announced Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO of Twitter, stating she “will focus primarily on business operations,” while Musk “focus[es] on product design & new technology.” His focus could include evolving Twitter into an all-purpose app, titled simply “X.” Musk’s description of the app is reminiscent of the popular Chinese platform WeChat, which supports actions like payments, ridesharing, food delivery, appointment-setting, and more, all in one place. 

Yep, “X” may indeed give it to ya, if “it” means “basically everything,” and “ya” means “Elon’s app users.”

Meta to Launch Twitter Competitor Next Month [:03]

Meta’s new app, tentatively titled “Barcelona,” features a chat-based feed—kind of like a large group chat that anyone can join, a la Twitter. The interface follows the current Instagram trend of conversations happening more in DMs than public spaces on the app. Messages will carry a 500-character limit and can include links, photos, or videos up to five minutes in length. And Instagram’s billions of daily active users will be able to sign up using their existing IG handle, which could create fast growth.

More Users Are Trying Bing, But Not Permanently [:01]

Similarweb recently measured shifts in consumer behavior among search platforms, and while it showed Bing has acquired more traffic over the last few months, the growth hasn’t been consistent. Similarly, while Google lost a bit of traffic, they still hold the lion’s share of the search market. ChatGPT itself, however, is earning a lot more traffic and should continue to grow, according to eMarketer predictions. These insights also fueled eMarketer’s H1 Search Ad Spending Forecast, where they expect Microsoft to capture 9% of the non-retail search ad market this year. 

Google, watching web users try Bing…for now.

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CHALLENGE

1o8 Agency partnered with Basis Technologies to launch an awareness campaign with the state of Illinois, Illinois Cares for Kids, and the Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development. Interviews identified various causes for low enrollment in publicly-funded early childhood development programs, such as parental concerns of illness exposure and computer inaccessibility in low-income homes.

SOLUTION

DETAILS

APPROACH:

RESULTS:


CLIENT FEEDBACK

“We are happy to report that all industry benchmarks were met across formats. With Basis Technologies powering our campaign, we effectively spread the word, generated an immense number of impressions and successfully drove traffic to the site."

- Gabi Nonneman, Account Supervisor, 1o8 Agency


MEET 1o8 AGENCY

1o8 Agency is a full-service marketing agency based in Chicago that specializes in delivering innovative and results-driven marketing solutions to businesses of all sizes. With a team of experts in branding, digital marketing, social media, content creation, and more, 1o8 Agency is committed to helping their clients enhance their brand, engage with their audience, and drive measurable results.

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What does it take to uncover what’s really going on in adtech? A whole lot of effort that not every advertising professional knows they need to put forth. In a fast-growing multibillion dollar industry, it’s increasingly challenging to discern truth from the carefully crafted narratives propagated by ad solution providers.

In this episode, industry thought leader and AdProfs founder Ratko Vidakovic joins host Noor Naseer to discuss how to find and distinguish adtech truths from not-so-hidden agendas.

If it seems like everyone around you has been feeling the adventure itch lately, they’re in good company: More than 90% of Americans are planning to travel this year, with nearly one in three intending to venture abroad. After the total number of trips taken by US travelers decreased by 33% in 2020, that number has steadily increased and is forecast to continue to grow in the coming years. And, spending in the travel industry reflects this trend. Despite economic uncertainty and the lasting impacts of the pandemic, the travel industry is returning to pre-pandemic levels and experiencing steady growth.

Still, airlines, hotels, restaurants, and other travel businesses across the world are facing unique challenges. From shifting consumer habits to rapidly evolving technologies, there’s a lot for travel marketing teams to juggle. Below, we outline six marketing challenges in the travel industry today as well as the strategies teams can use to address them. Ready? Let’s dive in.

1. Price is top-of-mind

Inflation peaked in June 2022, and while the costs of consumer goods were skyrocketing, so too were travel expenses. In fact, they were increasing even more. As a result, vacationers in 2022 identified price as the most important consideration when selecting their travel providers. With prices remaining higher today than pre-pandemic, most travelers will continue to look at the price tag first, and everything else second.

To address this, travel marketers can lean into messaging that emphasizes low rates and highlights value. For example, ads should draw attention to discounts and bundling whenever possible. Loyalty programs should also be front-and center, with 72% of travelers reporting that a great loyalty program improves their opinion of a travel brand. By crafting ads that highlight value and low rates, travel marketers can speak directly to the factors that are most relevant to consumers.

2. Consumer habits are shifting

From the explosion of remote work, to the renewed focus on health and sustainability, to increased digital engagement, to a heightened sense of budget-consciousness, many of the shifts in consumer behavior that took hold during the first couple of years of the pandemic are still with us today. And while they’ve impacted all industries, they’ve had an outsized impact on travel and tourism.

For example, thanks to the number of people who now work from home, a new audience segment has emerged: bleisure travelers, or people who travel for a combination of business and leisure. This new category of travelers is substantial, and on track to overtake the category of traditional business travelers. And of course, the same marketing strategies that work for people traveling exclusively for either business or pleasure won’t be as effective with this new group.

Marketing teams must commit to tracking shifts like these and adjusting their strategies accordingly. This could be by leveraging a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to collect, organize, and research customer data; using machine learning technology to analyze first-party data and identify patterns, trends, and other insights; or by investing in a researcher (or team of researchers) to organize and dig into existing data so it can be used effectively. Regardless of which method(s) they use, marketers must consider the unique wants and needs of these new and emerging groups and adapt their campaigns to meet those needs.

Which leads us to our next challenge…       

3. There’s a heightened demand for personalization

While personalization in digital marketing has become a must-have for all industries, it’s particularly impactful for travel and tourism brands. In fact, 86% of travelers say they’re looking for personalization during their travel experiences and interactions. And personalization isn’t just a trend on the marketing side—businesses are leaning into it to improve product and service experiences as well.

Delta Airlines, for instance, uses personalization technology to deliver personalized in-flight entertainment, onboard amenities, and more to customers. Hilton also leverages customer data—specifically, data obtained through their HHonors loyalty program—to provide a more intimate and individualized customer experience.

Marketers should personalize the experiences they curate for consumers to complement personalization on the product and services side. For example, a hotel brand might craft one variation of ad creative that emphasizes amenities that would appeal to families, and another that’s geared toward solo travelers. Or, a tourism company that offers immersive local experiences might target audiences 21+ with creative that features alcoholic beverages.    

Capturing audience information and leveraging it, however, are two different things entirely. Brands need systems to both collect this data and connect it to their CRM platforms to create personalized advertising experiences. The challenge? Many marketing teams today use a variety of point solutions to navigate the complexity of the digital media landscape. And, as a result, many travel marketing teams struggle with poor data quality and a lack of data consolidation.

There are a variety of ways to address this, from upping your team’s number of data analysts, to investing in tech like universal reporting systems and customer data platforms (CDPs). Marketing teams with robust and secure systems for gathering, storing, and making the most of customer data will be well-positioned to create meaningful and personalized campaigns.

4. Marketing teams need to connect with travelers at every step of their journey

Remember when we mentioned that consumer habits are shifting? One of the reasons that travel marketers need to keep a pulse on these shifts is so they can connect with their target audiences throughout their entire customer journey. By first identifying key shifts in consumer behavior, travel brands can ensure that audiences are seeing the right messages at the right time.

What might this look like in practice? Well, a brand focused on vacation air travelers might focus on Instagram and Facebook to build awareness of their products and services, since these travelers often look for inspiration on social media. By leveraging an omnichannel advertising platform, teams could then retarget these prospective travelers via paid search or native ads as they move from awareness towards consideration and purchasing.

Or, a travel company targeting road trippers might focus on connected TV (CTV) and other digital video channels during early stages of the customer journey, as well as roadside digital out-of-home (DOOH) billboards, since these travelers watch a lot of online videos and spend a significant amount of time on the road. With retargeting, advertising teams can then place additional, personalized ads across digital channels like audio (for the drivers listening to their favorite music and podcasts) and social media (for the passengers posting photo dumps of their travels) to move these customers further down the funnel. By both leaning into current consumer trends and thinking holistically about their path to purchase, travel brands can make meaningful connections with travelers throughout their individual journeys.

5. Brands must keep up with new technologies to stay relevant 

Technology is constantly evolving. Consider the fact that, back in 2010, hotel and airline apps were just getting started, yet now they are an integral part of most travelers’ experiences. For travel marketers, there is a constant need to keep up with the latest innovations to ensure great experiences for target audiences and current customers.  

First and foremost, travel companies need to ensure their customer-facing technology ensures a great experience. When traveling (or planning for travel), many customers look for flexibility and efficiency in the booking process. And, in 2022, nearly twice as many travelers chose to book directly with a provider online than through an online travel aggregator. For brands, this means that leaning into innovations in technology will help with both garnering new customers and retaining existing ones. At the very least, your digital presence must ensure a good customer experience: When prospective customers see an ad for your company but encounter overly-complex or faulty tech when they click on it (i.e., their click brings them to a “page not found” error on your website or to a hard-to-navigate app), that experience can have negative impacts on conversions, not to mention customer loyalty.

Additionally, travel companies should take advantage of emerging technologies to maintain a competitive edge. One prominent example of a new(er) technology that travel businesses can embrace is dynamic pricing. Airlines and hotels can use factors such as time of year, day of the week, and corporate versus leisure travelers to estimate the right price point to drive conversions. Using technology backed by artificial intelligence, it’s possible to make these adjustments based on daily changes in market demand. Some pricing engines have the power to update fares as often as every 15 seconds, and businesses are starting to see the huge difference this makes in bookings. 

Though this new technology can result in significant benefits for travel companies, it can also present distinct challenges. To use dynamic pricing requires much more than just investing in the tech: Businesses must also rework their data management processes, including integrating CRM and revenue analytics. And, this can be made even more difficult if customer data is messy or has not been consolidated to a single interface—another reason why it’s so important for travel and tourism brands to prioritize data quality and consolidation.  

6. Sustainability is of increasing importance to travelers 

In the wake of the pandemic, more and more travelers are looking for environmentally sustainable travel options. This can prove to be both a challenge and an opportunity for travel brands and companies. In 2022, these were some of the top sustainability practices vacationers expected from travel providers:

And while it’s true that marketing teams may not have much say in their company’s larger sustainability initiatives, there are ways they can prioritize the environment through their advertising practices.     

First and foremost, marketing teams should avoid greenwashing at all costs. Making sustainability claims that your brand can’t back up is inauthentic and diminishes consumer trust in your company. And, these damages often extend beyond tarnishing a brand’s reputation: Making false or misleading claims can negatively impact customers’ experiences with the products or services you provide.

Additionally, there are strategies that digital advertising teams can use to help minimize their carbon footprint. One such strategy is to focus on attention metrics and eliminate impressions below a certain threshold. Since anywhere from 30% to 40% of online ads are “not ultimately viewed by consumers,” focusing on attention metrics can help advertisers reduce unnecessary emissions from these unseen (or sparsely viewed) ads. Another way that teams can help reduce their carbon emissions by streamlining their internal processes to reduce the amount of computing power needed for a typical campaign workflow. Rather than using many point solutions, consolidating to a single, automated platform for every step of the campaign can help advertising teams further minimize their environmental impact (and make their lives simpler, to boot!).

By leaning into sustainability, even in ways that may not be immediately apparent to consumers, travel and tourism brands can back up authentic statements about their commitment to the environment—and in doing so, match their consumers’ values.

Marketing Challenges in The Travel Industry: Next Steps

It’s clear that travel and tourism marketers are facing a variety of demands. To meet the needs of today’s travelers, they need to be flexible and intentional, consider the entire customer journey, lean into personalization, emphasize their value in an authentic way, and adapt to innovations in technology. It’s a lot, but hey—so is making all the arrangements for a memorable getaway!  

Speaking of innovations in technology, advertising automation is a powerful tool for simplifying the campaign process and improving performance. It consolidates disparate point solutions into a single platform, empowers teams to make data-driven decisions through a comprehensive analytics dashboard, and allows for a simplified billing and reconciliation process.

Interested in learning more about how advertising automation can help travel brands reduce manual labor and spend more time meeting the complexities of today? Check out our guide, Meeting the Moment with Advertising Automation, for everything you need to know.

Sit down, Sopranos. Back up, The Bachelor. Get lost, Game of Thrones! The latest season of TV upfronts might be more dramatic than all three of you combined.

OK, we’re exaggerating...but only slightly. The real-world story has progressed so quickly and taken so many twists and turns that it’s felt like one of those shows you kind of have to read the recaps for. Assuming that’s why you’re here, we'll get right to it:

Let’s start with one of the biggest stories of the moment: On May 2, the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) went on strike to pressure the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) to provide a fairer contract, citing “business practices [that] have slashed [their] compensation and residuals and undermined [their] working conditions.”

At the same time, there’s massive churn happening across the industry in terms of personnel. From major layoffs at Disney, to Don Lemon’s exit from CNN and Tucker Carlson’s exit from Fox, to NBCU’s loss of its CEO and its Chairman of Global Advertising and Partnerships (who’s gone on to become Twitter’s new CEO) shortly before the upfronts, many linear and streaming giants are experiencing some major upheaval. As to how these changes will impact their advertising businesses, there’s a whole lot of uncertainty—both in the short and long term.

Then there's the convergence we’re seeing in the historically fragmented landscape of streaming TV, with the introduction of Max, which has combined the content libraries of HBO Max and Discovery+, and reports of Comcast planning to sell its stake in Hulu to Disney in 2024 as the House of Mouse plans to fold Hulu’s library of content into Disney+ to create its own mega-app later this year.

While digital video represented about half of ad spending in last year’s upfronts, that share has grown to roughly two-thirds this year, with linear’s YoY share decreasing significantly as advertisers move their dollars over to digital.

So yeah, just a few small things for advertisers to keep track of.

To help you make sense of it all, we called in two of our experts, Susan Mandell, VP of Brand Development, and Paul Morrone, Integrated Client Solutions Director. Below, they explore all the biggest questions on advertisers’ minds and provide recommendations for how to weather the wild, wild west of convergent TV in 2023.

How will the writer’s strike affect advertisers?

Paul Morrone: The first domino to fall was late night TV. Programs like “The Tonight Show,” “SNL,” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” are already running reruns instead of new episodes. The second domino to fall, if the strike continues until mid-June or so, will be a delay in production for new seasons and new content starting in the fall.

Susan Mandell: We’re seeing a lot of volatility with the actual people who create the content—and not just the writers. With the Screen Actor’s Guild and the Directors Guild preparing to negotiate their contracts as well, we don't know what's going to happen. Will it be a united front among the unions? So far, they’ve stuck together and shown more unity than back in 2007-2008. But Fran Drescher (President of SAG-AFTRA, whose contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expires on June 30) is talking about very different issues than the Writers Guild, and for the studios to address all of them, it's going to be challenging.

If it does come to a point where there isn’t anything new coming out, people will be going back to CTV channels and their giant mass of content to find something that they haven’t watched before.

Given all these changes, how should advertisers step back and reconsider their convergent TV spend?

SM: In this moment, if you're advertising on those late-night TV programs that are unexpectedly showing reruns, you're likely not going to get the consumers you thought you were, because they’re moving their eyeballs to content that's new to them—whether that’s a show they haven't watched before, a new streaming program, or a new podcast. In many instances, they're not finding that new content in linear right now.

The question becomes, how do marketers pivot their current or traditional marketing plans in an effort to really be in front of the right people? If you want to be in front of the right people on video, you can certainly do that on social channels like TikTok, Meta, YouTube. But there's also the CTV angle, where you can really connect to a specific audience that you weren't able to with linear. For example, you can use an audience segment of people who have done X, Y and Z, or who fall into a certain demographic, and reach them specifically where they’re viewing their content.

This is a really interesting moment for advertisers to think more about personalization and who their consumers are, who their target consumers are, what consumers drive the lowest customer acquisition rate and the highest lifetime value. How do you target those consumers to generate new revenue streams or new subscribers or whatever you may be selling? If you're thinking about how to maximize your dollars without wasting impressions on the wrong people, gearing it towards digital—think social and CTV—makes sense right now as eyeballs move away from linear to find new content.

Let’s talk transparency. How will advertisers know they’re reaching their target audiences if they’re moving dollars to CTV?

SM: When you think about linear, the guarantee you have is that time slot, right? You can see your ad and know that it checks all the boxes, but outside of that, there's little that you're able to do from a targeting perspective, outside the show.

In digital environments, there are more opportunities to get consumers to interact—and for advertisers to see and track those interactions—than we’ve ever had in linear. On YouTube TV, for example, consumers can click to get more information on each ad as it pops up.

Typically, CTV ads that work really well are those with QR codes or those that have immediate calls to action. And this is an interesting moment where people tend to have their phones or devices in their hands while they’re watching TV, so they're already ready to interact.

Given all the upheaval and unpredictability in the current TV landscape, what else should advertisers be prioritizing right now?

PM: One of the things that I find really interesting about this moment is that it shows how quickly a lot of things can change in this space. Constant change is going to be the new normal. We've seen an abundance of streaming platforms trying to go to market, convergence of content with Max and likely Disney, and that tumult is going to continue because not everyone's going to be able to survive.

Agility, the ability to react quickly, is critical right now. I’d almost recommend embracing something like a sense of adventure—a test and learn approach is really key.

SM: You’ve got to be flexible, and the digital space affords a lot more flexibility than we’ve ever had in linear. In this space, you can move dollars from a display campaign to a video campaign with three clicks of a button. For marketers to be agile and have their dollars flow in and out of mediums depending on what’s working and where people are, being in the digital space or the CTV space is really the best way to meet your consumers where they are.

Not to say that linear isn’t one of the strongest mediums out there—it absolutely is. But there are alternatives now that give marketers more flexibility to reach the right consumers without the price tag or the volatility that we’re seeing in linear.

Approaching Convergent TV: Wrapping Up

Phew! This might be one of those seasons you want to watch a second time, just to make sure you catch it all. To recap the recap, here’s what advertisers should know:

In light of the writer’s strike and larger audience trends, advertisers may want to consider moving some of their linear dollars over to digital video to capture audience attention on the channels where consumers are spending time. And with major changes seeming to happen more and more at the broadcast and streaming giants, digital offers advertisers the agility necessary to act swiftly in reaction to whatever plot twists come down the line.

Luckily, there’s one thing that’s certain: TV is one drama that won’t get cancelled anytime soon.

If you’re ready to lean into connected TV, but want more information on how to do it right, check out our connected TV advertising guide for the latest data, trends, and best practices.

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