Five reasons why your digital travel campaigns aren’t working

Over the past few years we’ve seen clients more than double their ROI with a well-planned digital marketing campaign.

And we’ve seen other brands lose customers and waste money.

It’s very easy to see where some travel brands are going wrong, with mistakes that are just as easily avoided. So if your digital travel advertising campaign isn’t delivering the results you were hoping for, here are five reasons why this may be.

1) You’re pushing ads at consumers who would have booked anyway

Since its inception in the early 2000’s – and particularly since it became widespread after the growth of ad exchanges around 2008 – programmatic has been dominated by bottom of the funnel activity, and in particular retargeting.

This can be very valuable: while users are comparing pricing on aggregators, retargeting can keep your brand front of mind and try to influence them to book direct.

However this benefit is often not realised. And the creative isn’t used to highlight benefits that cannot be found easily on aggregators – for example, that an offer is family (or couple) friendly, provides a premium service, gives reward points, has an amazing location close to the beach, and is great for sightseeing etc.

A common retargeting bad practice is to push ads at consumers who would have booked anyway. This uses up valuable display budget and won’t drive the incremental sales advertisers need from their marketing campaigns.

Used cleverly, data and creative allow programmatic to work much harder all along the customer journey, and drive incremental sales across all stages.

2) You’re relying on last click attribution

Last click attribution is rife in travel advertising. And while it’s a serious issue in most industries, it’s particularly damaging when the strategic goal of a campaign is to drive incremental sales.

Last click attribution always favours the bottom of the funnel, delivering yet more ads to people who are already deep in the buying cycle. So the majority of sales it attributes would have taken place anyway.

New travel customers inevitably went through a long, detailed consideration process involving a lot of research before buying. So it’s unlikely that the media channel, owner and tactic that first introduced the customer to the brand, and the offer they eventually bought, was also the last digital touch point involved before purchase.

3) You’re missing big upsell opportunities

How often after a consumer books their travel are they retargeted with exactly the same offer? How often does this continue for weeks on end? And yet this consumer is still likely to be a prospect for other travel services.

Unless a consumer has booked all their services (flights, hotels, car hire, experiences, insurance etc) the opportunity for upselling is huge. And yet this valuable sales opportunity is too often wasted, and can even create a negative experience by irritating customers.

4) You’re over-reliant on cookies

Most ecommerce programmatic campaigns are over-reliant on cookies. This is a challenge for travel advertisers whose consumers book only a few times a year, which is normally outside the useful range of cookies.

A fit for purpose programmatic travel program should allow travel brands to communicate with their users via personalised and relevant display ads beyond the reach of cookies while still respecting their privacy.

5) You’re getting your creative wrong

Creatives used in programmatic travel campaigns are often a long way from being fit for purpose. Templated creatives that use non-optimised product feeds often look terrible.

Even when they don’t look awful, the right messages often aren’t getting through. It is additional benefits, separate from basic elements like origin, destination and price that can persuade consumers to use a brand and drive long-term customer value. These are the messages that need to be communicated most clearly and carefully through programmatic advertising.

Travel is an experience business that involves the heart as much of the head, and great looking, personalised creative with clear resonant messages tugs at the heart as much as the head increasing brand value and conversion opportunities. Poor looking, generic, price driven creative does the reverse and feeds into the hands of the aggregators.


This is just one small excerpt from our comprehensive travel whitepaper. In it we explain:

  • The three biggest mistakes travel marketers are making
  • How to get retargeting right
  • Why last click attribution doesn’t work in travel
  • How travel firms are missing big upsell opportunities
  • Why it’s a mistake to rely on cookies in travel campaigns
  • Four creative and data travel tactics you can use
  • Why travel marketers need to get their creative right
  • How programmatic, data and create can solve travel challenges
  • How together creative and data can build brand loyalty
  • Four ways you can supercharge your results
  • How you can get more from your digital budget

If you want to make the most of the many opportunities digital advertising offers to knowledgeable marketers, get your free copy of our travel whitepaper now.

Download whitepaper