Smart Targeting: How Hotels Can Beat Ad Blocking

By Duncan Hendy in Marketing
·4 min read

$21.8bn in ad revenue was lost in 2015 because of ad blocking, according to Pagefair’s recent report. So with an increasing number of people blocking ads, how should hotels be rethinking their advertising strategy to reach new customers?

Let’s start at the beginning: why do ad blockers even exist?

Well, advertising generates money. So, businesses went crazy and websites started overloading their pages with all sorts of ads… to the point of them becoming intrusive and annoying. Much like a movie being preceded by advertising that is almost as long as the film itself, or, worse, interrupted by messages from the sponsor, online advertising ruins the whole experience of being online! So, with ad blockers, web users are able to choose to opt out of being bombarded with content businesses want them to see so that they can enjoy the experience they went online for.

Of course, not all businesses conduct themselves in this way. Some are discerning, considerate, and light in marketing touch. They present users with a solution to a problem they’re currently grappling with and do so without deceiving, irritating, or inconveniencing them.

But ad blockers can’t always discriminate.  An attractive, cleverly-worded, and considerate hotel ad could well end up being blocked. At which point it becomes useless—a waste of time and money, not to mention a loss of potential revenue. And frustratingly, hotels with less decorum seem to get their ads through, casting a shadow over the ad blocker’s moral whitelisting crusade as they permit ads from those who pay enough.

So how do upstanding hotels beat ad blockers?

Focus on Relevancy

Luxury accommodation in Bali promoted on a youth football message board will have the same rate of success as advertising skateboards to over-70s cruisers: none.

Hotel advertising needs to be relevant to its audience’s lifestyle. Accommodation they can’t relate to won’t be appreciated at all and will just contribute to that unwelcome white noise of online advertising you’re trying to avoid being part of.

As always seems to be the case, quality trumps quantity. Hotels need to remove the importance from how many people they reach, and place it on the relationship they establish with those they do. And for this, their content has to be relevant.

So to really cut it online, hotels have to get to know their audience—really well. They need to completely reassess their digital marketing strategy to making their focus about getting to know them so that they can personalize their ads specifically to the person they’re talking to.

Hotels that still segment by age, gender, and income are advertising dinosaurs. Demographic data like this just isn’t considered relevant any longer. Even targeting likers of a particular Facebook page can be too broad, as people of all types, ages, statuses, and financial situations enjoy the same topics. So hotel marketers need to consider carefully how they segment their audience and think about which data they use to identify a person as falling into those segments. A single source of data just won’t cut it. You have to know them. What brands do they like? What hobbies do they have? Where do they frequent? What sports teams do they support? Are they a dog person or a cat person?

Smart hotel marketers are already leveraging data brokerage and customer data management platforms to ensure relevancy and get their ads seen. After all, if their ads are the only ones getting through, their hotel is going to be turning people away this summer.

And then there’s GDPR…

Get Sophisticated

Online advertising is not the only way to get content to an audience. Instant messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are becoming a huge trend, particularly for Generation Z.

When a user signs up to a messaging application, they usually input information around their hobbies and interests and are invited to consent to receive third-party ads that are relevant to these. Hotel adverts can then appear on their messenger page. It’s unobtrusive, highly relevant, and the user has consented to receive it. You may have cut down your audience size, but those you are reaching are much closer to becoming customers. Why waste time on the disinterested rest?

A huge advantage of placing ads with instant messaging apps is timing. And timing is everything. When an opted-in user starts discussing destination plans with their holiday buddy, the bot (using artificial intelligence) is able to deliver a message to the conversation about special offers for hotels in the area they are considering at the time they are considering it!

What about these hotels that have swimming pools? Did you know we allow dogs? Stay at the closest hotel to the beach! Accommodation recommendations can be specifically tailored to the recipient using the information the app has about them, both from volunteered data and that gathered from their social profile.

It doesn’t get much more relevant than that.

Time to Get Behind Ad Blocking

Despite the negative press around ad blocking, it brings with it a positive change in the way advertisers approach content. And hotels should be embracing it.

No more can they just bombard their online audiences with loud, aggressive, or irrelevant ads. These hotels are likely to be blocked. But outsmarting ad blockers is not about deviously avoiding detection or even paying enough to get through, it’s about hotels genuinely connecting with interested potential customers on a personal level, in a highly relevant, engaging, and timely manner that actively supports a positive online experience.

Those hotels that do will be turning people away this summer.

Now, it’s over to you. I am sure you have some interesting experience or opinions about ad blocking and whether it is a welcome safeguard. Let us know in the comments section below.

By Duncan Hendy in Marketing
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