Afar Magazine and Switzerland Tourism Use Native To ‘Dream, Plan, Go’

Swiss tourismImagine native advertising with a buy button. Or, a stunning travel story that ends with the option for the reader to go on the same trip.

Switzerland Tourism sought to turn these scenarios into realities when it teamed with travel publication Afar Magazine to create the custom native program Afar Journeys, running from June to September.

“We were looking at a partner that can work from dream to plan to go,” Switzerland Tourism director Alex Herrmann said. Creating content around itineraries – after which readers could easily make travel arrangements – could quantify each article’s impact.

It just so happened that Afar Magazine had also envisioned an advertising program that would “populate every spot in the travel planning funnel,” associate publisher Bryan Kinkade said.

“Tourism boards have been figuring out how to better quantify what actions travelers are taking as a result of seeing promotions,” Kinkade observed.

Switzerland Tourism, for instance, has a hard time tracking detailed results in part because many vacationers bundle Switzerland with larger European tours, complicating measurement.

“Switzerland is a more complicated destination than London or Paris,” Herrmann said. “There are some areas and cities that are well-known, but none have a dominant position like those cities.”

So the joint campaign between Afar Magazine and Switzerland Tourism, running across digital, print and social media, is designed to test content’s influence on actual results. Afar is creating a booking challenge that will reward the travel agent who books the most trips to Switzerland.

The cornerstone of the campaign is the trips themselves – Afar-planned itineraries like “Conquer the Alps – By Bike” and others that feature day-by-day highlights, photos and embedded maps. Readers can click to “get more information,” which leads to a page prompting users to indicate their budgets and trip time frame, and giving Switzerland Tourism valuable insights into potential travelers.

Afar Magazine, which originated as a print magazine during the recession, views advertising programs like Afar Journeys as part of its evolution as a media property.

Half its revenue comes from digital. It’s also had success with content licensing (like Westin Finds, which encourages guests to extend their stays by showcasing scenery around their hotels) and custom content it produces on behalf of advertisers.

“Out of our top 10 advertisers on, eight of the 10 were doing a mix of native and traditional display advertising,” Kinkade said.

But these same advertisers also want measurement, be that destination lift, clicks, or requesting information, so Afar included that ability in the design of this native program.

“When we do brand recall studies, engagement with native solutions is as high or higher than editorial,” Kinkade said. “That complements the run-of-site display advertiser we’re doing, where it’s used to drive eyeballs.”

The Afar Journeys program fits with how Switzerland Tourism’s preference for custom advertising that elicits results.

Switzerland Tourism focuses on eight KPIs, from audience engagement with advertising to newer direct-response measurements like itinerary bookings.

The company’s studies, conducted every couple of years, shows that advertising influences a seventh to a sixth of all bookings to Switzerland, Herrmann said. And now it can measure how a single campaign moves the needle in travel bookings.

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