Between the Sunday Times’ headline last month, “No-deal Brexit travel warning: don’t go on holiday after March 29”, and general blanket uncertainness, securing strong forward bookings over the next couple of months has never been more important. In short, all eyes are on peaks this year.
Big travel names have forged ahead with their marketing activity. Some got a head start and launched in early December, while others held out on big reveals until Christmas Day. While details of peaks marketing campaigns have traditionally been kept top secret, this year many went on the record to say their activity would comprise upcycled versions of past campaigns.
The 2019 ad winners so far are those demonstrating authenticity. Considering the current social and political climate, it’s no surprise many of us are craving the realistic and straightforward – we want to see experiences with meaning.
John Lewis went all out, reportedly spending £5 million on its Elton John ads. While data from 4C named the household brand “king of Christmas adverts” after analysing millions of social posts to determine which out of 10 ads engaged most with viewers, not all of the feedback was positive. The cutting “costly but irrelevant” remark popped up on more than one occasion. Reportedly not stocking pianos until the ad launch probably didn’t help, either.
At the other end of the spectrum, the “banned” Iceland advert focusing on the negative effects of palm oil captured the public’s attention. Research from consumer insight group Kantar Millward showed many viewers hailed it, with reactions such as “relevant”, “brave” and “real”.
Whether you buy into the approach or not, Iceland has proved a hit with consumers for being a message with substance.
It shouldn’t be all that different in the travel industry. We know consumers looking to book a holiday want to do so with a “good” business – a trusted brand that delivers on customer service and value for money.
Authenticity will always play into the hands of experienced agents who can help navigate the huge array of holidays on offer.
The travel industry appears to be taking a cover-it-all approach to peaks. There’s everything from capitalising on big cinematic releases such as Mary Poppins Returns (Olympic Holidays) to favourite celebrity voiceovers (Rail Discoveries), while some are even shunning hefty price tags to focus on offering holidays recommended by customers and staff (Kuoni).
Big bucks have been ploughed into TV and cinema ads and here’s hoping that a decent sized investment went into their online strategies, where targeting is arguably more scientific. Making an impact with clever content has never been more important.
Those taking the winning spots in travel remain to be seen, but in the meantime I hope they can all take comfort in the fact that they didn’t drop £5 million on Elton John…
Katie Wright is associate director at Siren Communications