Thursday, 16 September 2010 | 10:19

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Jane Butler, Google's managing director for travel in the US, recently wrote a guest post for tnooz regarding remarketing display ads. Here in the UK, we've also seen travel advertisers achieve great results with display remarketing and the points below are as relevant in Europe as they are in the US.

Case study: How display ad Remarketing works in travel

I’ve been working at the intersection of travel and online marketing for almost 15 years now and while many things have changed, one thing has not.

Travel marketers continue to produce some of the most innovative and effective online campaigns across all industries.

Years ago, travel marketers were some of the true pioneers of search marketing; they were among the first to use advanced bidding systems and scale these programs as robust marketing and distribution channels.

“What would travel marketers do?” was a frequently asked question in marketing circles (though not a frequently worn “WWTMD” bracelet, despite my best efforts), and I spent a lot of time explaining to others how best practices from travel could be lessons for other industries as well.

Today, we’re seeing travel marketers apply their online savvy to non-search channels too. Display advertising is one area that is currently popping and not surprisingly, travel has again become the category to watch.

So, you may be asking yourself, what’s working and how do I get in on it?

Discussing display is a bit like discussing travel – it’s a broad category and there’s a whole lot going on.

For the purposes of this piece, I’ll look at one display product, called Remarketing, and one way a travel marketer, IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group), found it to be useful.

But first things first: what, or more specifically, where, is display?

Display ads on any service, but in our case, from Google (such as rich-media, banners, video, text, and more) are served on the Google Display Network, Google’s network of over one million AdSense partner and Ad Exchange sites across the web. Users may see display ads on both 3rd party websites, and/or Google-owned sites, like YouTube.

Remarketing allows marketers to re-engage users who’ve previously visited their websites as they browse sites across the network. Advertisers, including a large number of travel companies, are finding Remarketing campaigns to be very effective and they’re investing more in them.

Remarketing also benefits users, as they may see more special discounts and offers – cheap flights or hotel deals, for example — from sites they’ve previously shown an interest in.

For those users who don’t want to see these ads, our Ads Preferences Manager provides granular privacy controls and an easy way to opt-out. Online publishers like Remarketing as well because it leads to more investment into display advertising, helps to bring new advertisers, and grows the overall display ad pie.

IHG’s experience with Remarketing is instructive. The hotel company observed a pattern among many of its sites’ visitors. IHG saw that some users would go to one of their hotel brand sites and browse, but would not book a stay.

IHG ran ads for its hotel brands, which include Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and InterContinental, across the Google Display Network, in some cases offering specials to users who had previously shown interest in one of them.

This campaign yielded some pretty impressive results:

Remarketing ads had a 21% higher overall click-thru-rate compared to remarketing campaigns on other ad networks.

Clicks increased by 55% after IHG introduced text ads into their US campaign.

IHG increased budget by 100% as a result of campaign performance.

This is only one of the approaches that marketers have used in their Remarketing campaigns.

We’ve also seen other travel marketers – cruise lines and car rental services, for example – advertise special offers to recent “lookers” while they are elsewhere on the web and drive them back to their web sites to book.

In addition, some airlines are using Remarketing as a tool to upsell online customers (who have already booked a flight) with ancillary services such as boarding priority, travel insurance, etc. The possibilities go on and on.

The competition for travel consumers has never been higher and that means targeted, high-ROI campaigns are more important than ever.

Remarketing is one of the most exciting products I’ve seen in recent years that delivers on this front and, based on the budget increases we’re seeing in this area, I’m not the only one excited about its potential.