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03 Nov 2015

BY Matthew Parsons


Advertising technology and travel: How two worlds collide

As TTG unveils its new online series of data analysis with Sojern, Matthew Parsons talks to commercial director Russell Young about the relevance of "intent data" in an uncertain world


While it might seem odd for an agent or tour operator to base marketing decisions on data from an advertising platform, Sojern is continuing to extol the virtues of its advertising technology prowess.


“We float between the two worlds of advertising technology and travel,” says Russell Young, commercial director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, as well as Asia Pacific. “We work with a lot of travel suppliers, and also advertising companies. We’re nicely positioned, and can bring them together.”


Sojern works with more than 650 travel brands, placing relevant adverts across a range of online media platforms. It specialises in “intent data”, and gathers billions of traveller intent signals across online and mobile channels. For example, collecting anonymous data from users inputting dates into search boxes across websites including hotel and airline companies, as well as metasearch and price comparison websites. And on top of intent data there is booking confirmation data.


In 2014, it delivered more than 1,000 campaigns for brands including Avis Budget Group, British Airways, Emirates, Hertz and Starwood. In that year it also delivered $1 billion travel bookings for its clients – representing 3.5 million reservations worldwide.


Young adds that now its advertising methods are increasingly focusing on “private market places”. This combines programmatic buying with selected publishers to create greater viewability and a brand safe environment whilst maintaining the highly targeted nature of data driven marketing. As a result, travel companies are able to advertise in less crowded places to stand out from the crowd, protect their brand and enhance performance.


Young says he is seeing real growth in “prospecting”, where it helps travel companies attract new customers: “As we grow in size, and resources, we are becoming more heavily focused on upper funnel engagement, prospecting new customers that match the profile of our client’s existing customer base. As a result, we are delivering more selective retargeting where additional data is applied to site visits to deliver a full funnel proposition to digital marketeers.”


UK focus


Young joined Sojern in 2013 following 10 years at Lastminute.com, and helped Stephen Taylor, senior vice-president, open the London office – which is Sojern’s HQ for Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific.


The latter region is the fastest growing, he adds. However, the UK remains the company’s “strongest market based on the number of clients located here”. Taylor has since relocated to San Francisco, to focus on global strategy and Young will soon be relocating to Singapore to continue to oversee Sojern’s international development.


Sojern is also increasingly working with a large number of tourist boards as they are beginning to see the real value in using search intent data to promote their destinations to relevant geographical markets.


Meanwhile, the company is keen to work with more hotels, and expanded its sales team in the summer with the appointment of Jeff Down as senior director of sales, hotels, Europe. Down has 20 years of international experience in the travel and hospitality sector, and joins from Nor1, where he was vice-president of business development, Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Coming soon to TTGMEDIA.COM – Sojern Data Points

Sojern Data Points, launching next month at ttgmedia.com, will be a monthly column that analyses the data behind the industry’s big stories. Written by Sojern’s Russell Young, it will explore how global events affect tourism demand. “We are based on actual factual evidence, not assumption,” Young says. For example, when catastrophic or economic events (such as in Greece) occur, Sojern can usually see an immediate change in user behaviour based on searches and bookings. Typically, these events can result in a downturn in tourism for these destinations as users shift their attention to alternative destinations as a result of the news. However, as the terrorist attacks in Sousse in the summer hit the headlines, travel intent volatility began. Counterintuitively, flight searches from the UK and Ireland were up by 11% in the aftermath, but days later, they dropped 16%. This kind of up-to-the minute insight may help agents and operators respond more accurately to global events.


Brand King, Sojern’s vice-president of global sales, is appearing in the Digital Transformation in Travel session at WTM London on November 3, from 12-1pm in South Gallery 23-26.

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