Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Travel Ad Network: Coffee, Tea, or Profit?

I am really excited that C:SF is doing a new project with Travel Ad Network, because I like the company and its model so much.

Regular readers know that I am a big fan of vertical ad networks -- the media sellers that aggregate inventory in a key sector and add value through technology and industry knowledge.

You may NOT know, though, that I think travel will be a leading web growth sector over the next five years. And I think this because:

1. Digital works for travel, from both a DR and a brand building perspective.

2. It is becoming increasingly difficult for brands to differentiate purely through experiences. This is CERTAINLY true in airlines, where financial realities are driving the nickel and diming that aggravates us yet which we understand as inevitable. But I think commoditization has become a potential issue across the board -- as more and more of those multiple hundred million dollar resorts go up. While in Hawaii recently, I heard an 8 year old say "So they have a dolphin in the tank. Big deal. I've seen that before." What can a hotel do to impress that little pint sized cynic? And since i am on a rant, the Wynn Hotel in Vegas cost $1B. What next? $5B?

3. Online is increasingly the resource of choice for consumer info on destinations. We want our specific needs and interests catered to, and online is really the only resource that can provide a high level of information customization.

4. Tough economic times will drive travel companies to focus increasingly on media that drive concrete and accountable metrics.

Big growth is gonna happen, people! Betcha $10!

But as this growth materializes, travel is increasingly finding itself in the same position as the auto category -- where more and more dollars are chasing what appears to be a finite amount of inventory.

Ad networks can really help in such a situation, and one that I think is poised to grow well in travel has the rather easy to remember name of "Travel Ad Network." The way ad networks help in such a situation is to grow the amount of available inventory by aggregating sites beyond the top ten along with vertical content on general interest sites. This brings lots of new high quality inventory to the marketplace, while simultaneously simplifying the processes of buying, trafficking, reporting, and optimization.

I like TAN because it aggregates high quality inventory from across more than 50 travel sites -- many of which attract highly involved and passionate audiences. These are the sort of people that will be increasingly critical to an industry that may face downward margin pressure; passionate people can be expected to pay more because they care more.

One key differentiator in any network - vertical or horizontal -- is the percentage of inventory that is remnant versus from exclusive representation agreements. There's nothing wrong with remnant, but when you see a vertical that doesn't entirely rely on it, you can surmise that they offer some unique strengths worth examining. TAN has built its business on exclusive representation agreements, and works with high quality sites like Rand McNally and Lonely Planet.

Because many of the sites they represent are large, TAN currently offers the third largest monthly reach in the travel vertical:

This theory is further borne out by the demos of the network, which offer a disproportionate number of people in that highly desirable $100K plus group.

While most networks focus mostly on the standard four creative units -- the four core IAB sizes, TAN has chosen to create a much broader range of marketing vehicles that add to the number of potential consumer touchpoints and offer what may well be a more compelling creative palette.

Hear are just some of their options:

Destination or content on page
Behavioral targeting
Location or IP address targeting
Day/Day part or time of day scheduling
Frequency of visitation targeting
Customized placements
Targeted text links
Destination spotlights (advertorial)
Custom post-campaign ad effectiveness studies

Of course, one of the key ways that ad networks add value to publishers and advertisers alike is through technology, especially in the areas of targeting and analytics. TAN offers a full range of targeting options and people report that their reporting systems are quite strong.

News of TAN is definitely out -- after all, they've been around since '03. But I feel as though they are sort of a sleeper of the industry -- attracting strong clients already...

...but poised for big growth as news of their strengths gets out. As travel experiences great growth, expect TAN to grow even faster.

That's why I am so excited that our team will be working with them. Hey, you can take this post with the proverbial grain, but I genuinely do think TAN is worth your attention if you are interested in the travel vertical and a high quality audience.

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to write.

1 comment:

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