AdClub: How to Navigate the Future of Travel

From Member Evan Rutchik, CRO, Ogury

During the recent Advertising Club of New York webinar, Navigating the Future of Travel, I shared various travel trends and predictions which were identified based on Ogury’s unique, reliable mobile user and behavior data. Following the presentation, I was lucky enough to speak with Molly Battin, VP of Marketing at Delta Air Lines, and Alex Sutton, Director of Digital Acquisition at Avis Budget Group. Below is a Q&A summary of the trends shared and of our discussion.

Beginning with trends and predictions, who will be traveling soon, and what do their demographics and behaviors look like?

Regional travel over the upcoming winter holidays is expected to surge. I wanted to better understand who these travelers are in order to make informed predictions on their future behaviors. I pulled an Advanced Custom Persona Study in Ogury Active Insights to identify these travelers.

In terms of demographics, the “Winter Traveler” skews slightly more female at 52% and the majority of these travelers are above 35. In terms of discriminant behaviors, we found that they show an affinity for various car rental apps and sites such as Budget, restaurant booking apps, and sites including Open Table, and trip-planning apps including TripIt. There were a lot of great findings when looking at their interests. To list a couple, we discovered that they are 4.9X more likely than the general population to own the HomeAway Vacation Rentals app. We also found that they love the outdoors. These users are 3.8X more likely than the general population to own the AllTrails: Hiking, Running & Mountain Bike Trails app.

Based on these overall persona findings, we have identified three relevant sub-personas that marketers need to understand this holiday season: “The Roadtripper”, “The Conscious Flyer” and “The Experience-Seeker.” Find out more about the demographics and behavioral nuances of these sub-personas here.

Now to the discussion. What have been Delta Airlines and Avis Budget Group’s biggest challenges, and how has this changed their marketing strategies?

Like the rest of the travel industry, Delta and Avis Budget Group encountered many challenges following the COVID-19 outbreak. As travel came to a halt, both businesses were primarily impacted by the reduction in air travel. Delta was impacted by reduced flight bookings, and Avis Budget Group saw a severe drop in airport car rentals.

This resulted in the need to swiftly pivot marketing strategies. Molly shared, “our marketing has switched from awareness and brand marketing to building education around the layers of safety protection Delta is taking.” Similarly, Alex shared that Avis Budget Group has taken a safety pledge and launched multiple initiatives “which have changed our procedures around cleaning and customer interactions.”

Despite the initial struggles, both brands discovered new opportunities. Alex shared that although there was an instant drop in Avis Budget Group’s car sales business, there has recently been a huge lift in sales. And despite the decrease in air travel, Delta has seen record growth of its cargo business.

How have media efforts changed based upon these different customer behaviors? 

There were a lot of immediate changes that needed to be made by all travel brands. In terms of targeting, it’s apparent that new segments have emerged, which results in new strategies. Molly shared that Delta “has changed our media mix completely. We’re no longer doing broader reach targeting and are now much more focused on performance-driven marketing.” And the device that has proven extremely valuable is mobile. Molly shared that Delta is “leveraging the mobile device as a travel concierge.”

Similarly, Alex shared that “going into the pandemic we (Avis Budget Group) were fairly device agnostic. Now we’ve seen higher levels of mobile traffic. That’s played into how we’ve pivoted our strategy.”

With more people at home, consumers have become much more reliant on mobile, and brands have been adapting their media strategies to align with the shifts in media consumption.

How have Delta Airlines and Avis Budget Group leaned into their agency and ad tech partners?

It was great to hear from Molly and Alex about how supportive their agency and ad tech partners have been. Despite the reduced budgets, there is always a way for the different players in the advertising ecosystem to support each other.

The common word used throughout our discussion was “scrappy”. Both Delta Airlines and Avis Budget Group have had to pull back on media spend and move certain resources in-house. They’ve also had to cut back campaign production time to turn deliverables around much quicker. This has changed the way they work with their agency and ad tech partners.

Alex said, “our agency and ad tech partners have been forced to do a lot more with a lot less and they’ve really stepped up.” Molly shared that “they’ve been with us on this journey and have been agile, flexible, and nimble.” It truly has been great to see the relationships between brands, agencies, and ad tech partners really strengthen during challenging times.

What do they anticipate their marketing focus to be in the next six months?

As consumer confidence grows there will be more of a balance between the types of messaging that is shared. Molly expressed that “there’s pent-up travel demand so we want people to have something to look forward to. We’ve been so focused on safety and the Delta Care Standard which we’ll continue focusing on, but as we head into the end of the year and next year, we’ll also focus on inspiration and motivation and implement more ‘book now and travel later’ messaging.”

Alex shared a similar sentiment. Avis Budget Group will continue experimenting with its messaging and Alex expressed the importance of understanding where the consumer is in the decision-making funnel. If a consumer is in the upper-funnel, safety messaging is key. As they move down the funnel, the messaging needs to be tailored to the travelers that are already “in-market”, as they’re likely already aware of the company’s safety measures.

All-in-all, it’s important to understand the demographics, behaviors, and interests of today’s traveler, and adapt marketing strategies and brand messaging based on their needs.

Watch a replay of the full event, here.

Evan Rutchik is the President of the Americas at Ogury. He has managed award-winning media campaigns since 2007, previously holding senior roles at digital media leaders on both the technology and agency sides of the business. After joining Ogury in late 2016, Evan has been responsible for scaling the company’s US sales and business efforts from the New York City office. Here he has overseen record growth as well as established Ogury’s reputation in North America, opening offices in 10 major US cities. Previously, Evan served on the board of the IAB Mobile Center of Excellence. He often moderates and speaks on panels across the world as an expert thought leader in mobile marketing and consumer privacy.