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July 2, 2019

DMNews: Vacation Videos that Work for Travel Marketing

Rapid testing by Smartly.io aimed at bringing the best optimized creative for every traveler by ARIELLA BROWN

Interview originally published @ DMNews content also available here.

The travel companies,  TUI Belgium and TUI Netherlands, set out to reach more potential customers interested in summer travel vacations through Facebook and Instagram. They knew that video can be very effective in that way, but as their existing video content had not been designed for social, they wanted to find a way to test that the video content they would put out on those channels would prove effective. 

To be sure that their video strategy would work to attract their target market for Belgian and Dutch residents who were interested in vacations, they partnered with Smartly.io, an automated creative ad platform they had worked with before. They were aiming for the early booking customer who plans summer vacations from the end of December through January. 

I spoke with Nicolas Elshout, BENE lead programmatic media buying at TUI Belgium and Jose Sánchez, Head of Creative Studio at Smartly.io, about how the campaign required rapid testing and adjustment to the videos sent out to the social channels over six weeks. The campaign was called, “For you,” Elshout explained. The idea was to say they could offer exactly the type of vacation each person wants. 

The individuals targeted by the campaign were selected based on Facebook data that identified them as being in the planning stage of a vacation, meaning they had started to look but had not yet decided on what they would book. The company started with two assumptions about video that they wanted to test: 

  1. Shorter is better, which made them assume six second videos would perform better than 10 second ones.
  2. Showing distinct travel personas would engage audiences better than showing footage of activities in beautiful destinations. 

Here’s the video about their plans: 

The first two weeks of the campaign were dedicated to that testing stage, to narrow down the permutations to the best performing ones to run during the remaining four weeks. The primary metric applied  was traffic to their site, so that they weren’t just counting clicks but customer engagement on the site. 

Testing involved three steps: 

  1.  Smartly.io’s Creative Studio created video templates for each video variant, both six and 10 second lengths with different opening scenes, focusing on landscapes or personas.  
  2. Smartly.io automatically matched these video templates with TUI’s original video assets, which generated over 100 versions of the video ad to test.
  3. Over two weeks, TUI A/B tested the results of the different videos to identify which worked best to run that one for the rest of the campaign. 

Two weeks in, they had a double surprise.They found that real life customers didn’t behave the way they expected. In fact, the 10 second videos performed better, and opening the video scenes to show off the destinations rather than focusing on personas had better results 

Sánchez suggested that a possible reason why longer videos performed better “could be related to studies that show part of holidays enjoy the most is planning them.” That could be why viewers were more drawn in by the shots that focused on the destination rather than the views that centered on a persona. 

The ability to test and change the ad campaign on the fly is what assured its effectiveness. Putting in the winning video for the campaign led to a 72 percent lower cost-per-initiate checkout and a 36 percent lower cost-per-purchase. 

With such results, Elshout said that this modular approach will be their “new normal.” They’re already planning on applying the same strategy to their next campaign, which is going to be “more granular,” so they can adjust it to optimize results while the campaign is running. 

With the benefit of agility, they “can launch and test and know what to change” and then implement it without any delay, Sánchez observed. The way forward for marketing, he declared,  is “letting audiences decide what is their preferred way of communication with them,”.

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