As Google ramps up its own travel offerings, online travel agencies are beginning to change up their strategies in retaliation. The latest move comes from TripAdvisor, which today announced it has consolidated its global media account with Havas Media Group, following a review that began in early 2019.
Havas had been serving large chunks of the account via Havas Edge in the U.S. and Canada since 2017, and with Havas Edge sibling shop All Response Media in the U.K. But Massachusetts-based TripAdvisor also used smaller shops around the globe. Havas will now hold the global media agency-of-record title. The company said it will capitalize on Havas’ relationship with its parent, Vivendi, which bought a majority stake in the agency network in 2017 and also owns such properties as Universal Music Group. in the U.S. the account will be led by Havas Media.
A TripAdvisor spokesman says TripAdvisor will focus more on digital and integrated marketing and rely less on a TV-driven approach. He says that the brand was drawn to Havas’ “data-driven” ability to demonstrate ROI.
The marketer, which reported spending $544 million on advertising last year, wants to build a loyal community of consumers who will use its channels for booking and recommendations and not go through competitors like Google and Airbnb.
“There is an effect of Google and other search engines moving more and more into the travel space and that's a bit of a hotel headwind we called out,” said TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer on a recent earnings call with analysts. “Of course it hits all of our business units, but we continue to look at the overall positive of how this traffic finds us, how we're able to educate them on TripAdvisor.” He noted that the brand is hoping to drive long-term loyal behavior and engagement as it connects with customers. In the second quarter, TripAdvisor reported a revenue dip of 3 percent to $422 million.
Many online travel industry players are increasing their spending, particularly on digital ads. EMarketer recently reported that digital ad spending in the travel industry will be nearly $13 billion, more than the $12.8 billion consumer packaged goods brands will spend. Booking Holdings, which owns TripAdvisor competitors Booking.com, Priceline and Kayak, recently began pulling back some of its spending from Google and investing more in both online videos and TV, according to CNBC.
TripAdvisor is also looking for a new creative agency, as it tests new messaging. The company is working with current agency the Many on a campaign that is less focused on price comparisons for travelers and more centered on the fun some experience in planning a trip. Such work will run through the remainder of summer on digital and traditional media such as TV. A spokesman says the creative agency search is ongoing.
As it plays with more thoughtful marketing themes, TripAdvisor is also positioning itself as a content site for non-travel marketers. In May, the travel agency began building up its platform to woo advertisers outside of the travel place—like a sunscreen seller eager to target a consumer researching a trip, for example. In addition, late last year, TripAdvisor introduced its own social network to be a one-stop shop for travelers looking to find, and to share, recommendations.
Contributing: Lindsay Rittenhouse