Home Commerce TripAdvisor Built A Travel Media Biz Before Retail Media Took Off – And Now It’s Got A Creative Studio, Too

TripAdvisor Built A Travel Media Biz Before Retail Media Took Off – And Now It’s Got A Creative Studio, Too


TripAdvisor Media, the travel search and booking company’s three-year-old advertising business, added an in-house creative studio called Wanderlab this week as it takes a step into marketing services.

The content studio is part of a progression for TripAdvisor from selling only the most obvious placements (a search for “Hotels in Houston” prompts ads for, you guessed it, hotels in Houston) to powering ad targeting and creative production beyond TripAdvisor’s own media, said Adam Ochman, TripAdvisor’s global head of brand head of marketing solutions and co-leader of the new Wanderlab group.

“We realized that there was a whole universe of travel consumer that was applicable to a number of non-endemic categories as well,” Ochman said. “And we were doing the business a disservice by not utilizing our massive amounts of first-party data on travelers to help serve other non-endemic verticals.”

Wanderlab does still work with endemic TripAdvisor brands. Its campaign launch partner is the San Diego Tourism Authority, which paid the studio to develop a digital out-of-home (DOOH) experience. TripAdvisor recruited local artists to paint murals throughout San Diego, which people can see and use special augmented reality (AR) overlays to bring up more about the artist, the painting and the wherever they happen to be in the city. With their phones, people could also unlock promotions or submit their info to qualify for a sweepstakes to win products from local businesses.

The use of DOOH and AR is an example of how the Wanderlab can move beyond TripAdvisor-native advertising mediums, said Anna Aksman, director of creative services and the other co-leader of the in-house studio. Before it was officially branded as a standalone content marketing studio, the Wanderlab team also worked with the city of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism on a voice-based Alexa skill people used to plan experiences and guided tours from their own home (back in early 2021, during the Omicron wave, when vacation travel was still practically non-existent.)

Part of the particular data-driven creative value prop for Wanderlab is that it isn’t just creative production and strategy, like an independent agency or even a publisher itself might offer, Aksman said. (She held similar creative director roles for in-house content studios launched by the digital media brand Thrillist and its parent company Group Nine Media.)

Tied into the creative production is the knowledge that distribution strategies affect ROI, and a focus on powerful targeting and analytics capabilities, she said.

When it works with San Diego, Abu Dhabi or other cities like Orlando that are TripAdvisor Media clients, the Wanderlab team connects its campaigns to precise changes in searches or bookings for that location. Any marketer with its own strong first-party data set can run creative executions with Wanderlab that sync directly between TripAdvisor and the advertiser’s first-party data sets.

Netflix was one of TripAdvisor’s first completely non-endemic brand advertisers. With the ability to match audiences, it can see to what degree TripAdvisor audiences who saw the ad campaign for a program were more likely to watch the program. Creating travel guides for Disney+ is another TripAdvisor Media project, Aksman said.

There’s a huge opportunity for TripAdvisor in servicing data-driven advertisers generally, not just travel search marketers, according to Ochman. But the challenge is winning the mental mind share of the programmatic industry.

“I was just on a client call where they had said, ‘Oh, I never thought about you this way,’” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘exactly.’ We did our job on that call to change that perception.”

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