User-generated content travel site TripAdvisor hopes to become a hot summertime destination itself as it kicks off a multi-million-dollar integrated ad campaign aimed at generating traffic.
"In the past we've done some search marketing, email, word-of-mouth," said Christine Petersen, senior vice president of marketing for TripAdvisor, a division of Expedia. "As we grow beyond hotel reviews, it's important that we get out there and tell people about that."
Boston-based Connelly Partners worked with TripAvisor on the effort, which began this week.
At stake for the ad campaign is the site's burgeoning advertising business. Until recently, TripAdvisor sold only cost-per-click text advertisements. The firm kicked off graphical advertising in February with a representation deal with the Travel Ad Network (TAN). Since then, TripAdvisor has begun to service travel-specific advertisers with its own sales force, but it still uses TAN for non-endemic advertisers.
The new campaign, spending for which wasn't disclosed, centers around 25 downloadable PDF guidebooks to summer travel locales such as Paris, New York, Sydney and Cabo San Lucas. Both on- and offline ads point to landing pages where the PDFs can be downloaded. The guidebooks are compiled from information posted by site users.
"It's all verbatim from the site," explained Petersen, who added the company chose to create PDFs because they could be changed and updated quickly, unlike a hard copy book.
To download the guides, visitors must enter an email address. Once they do so they're entered into a sweepstakes to win a trip worth up to $5,000. If they "tell a friend" about the guides by entering in their friends' email addresses, they gain entry into a grand prize drawing. TripAdvisor plans to use those addresses for email marketing.
The company is getting the word out about the downloads via radio spots, newspaper ads, and display ads in tourist destinations like San Francisco trolley cars. The company is also placing branded kiosks in airports. Online ads will appear on Fodors.com, Budget Travel Online, Travel Channel and on Tacoda's behavioral network.
TripAdvisor in recent months has launched Inside, a collaborative travel guidebook, and another feature, goLists, user-created lists of things to do at particular destinations. The site saw over 20 million unique visitors in March, according to the company, and it has more than 3.5 million registered members.
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Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.