Travel Ad Report: Which Brands Rule When It’s Time to Relax?

Fourth of July fireworks sparked ads from major vacation destinations on travel guide sites leading up to the nation’s birthday. In addition, while the hotel chains one would expect to see advertising on those sites were indeed out in force leading up to July 4th and Memorial Day, non-hospitality brands were also present in abundance. Examples include telecoms, financial services firms, and some of the Web’s most prominent advertisers.

According to a new report from ad tracking firm Media Trust Company, destination advertisers did not appear in a list of top 10 travel site advertisers before Memorial Day, between May 12 and 26. They did, however, pop up before the July 4 holiday, a popular time for road trips and getaways. Universal Orlando was in first place with 5.6 percent share of voice. Virginia’s historical Colonial Williamsburg resort and the city of Washington, D.C. also showed up on the list.

In an effort to determine which advertisers aimed to reach travel site visitors before two of the biggest summer holidays in the U.S., the measurement firm monitored ads appearing on highly-trafficked travel sites. It disregarded travel commerce sites such as Expedia or Travelocity, which often do their own advertising, and focused on guide sites including AOL Travel, Concierge.com, Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Gadling, MSN Travel, Trip Advisor, Virtual Tourist, and Yahoo Travel.

The Williamsburg and D.C. ads were most likely targeted geographically to users in the area, because The Media Trust’s system viewed those sites from an IP address based in Washington, D.C.

The research firm’s technology scans specific sites, captures display ad creative, and determines share of voice based on the number of times a particular advertiser’s ads are spotted. The system monitors all sites in question at the same intervals and with the same frequency in order to estimate the share of ads an advertiser represents.

Best Buy and AT&T Wireless, both top online advertisers, came in at number two before Memorial Day and July 4, respectively. Both advertisers showed up on travel sites during each period monitored, but AT&T Wireless leapt in rank from seventh to second, and boosted its share of voice from 2.75 percent to 5.4 percent leading up to July 4. While Best Buy’s ranking moved from second to sixth place, the company grabbed around 4 percent share during both durations.

AT&T Wireless was the Web’s 17th most prolific advertiser in April 2008, according to TNS Media Intelligence; Best Buy came in at number 32. Another longtime top online advertiser, Vonage, made the pre-Memorial Day list, taking a 3.6 percent share of voice. Vonage ranked 47th among the top 50 online advertisers in April.

Hotel chains including Best Western, Marriott, Westin Hotel & Resorts and New York City’s Hotel Wolcott were among the top advertisers spotted on travel sites during the two holiday periods. Just one airline, United, appeared in the top 10, and only before Memorial Day. Before July 4, Southwest Airlines, British Airways, and LAN Airlines were the top airline advertisers, though none made the top 10 list.

Other endemic travel advertisers like car rental firms were barely represented in either top advertiser list. Only CarRentals.com — the clear leader in the duration before July 4 with over 85 percent share of voice — made that period’s list; none were in the Memorial Day top 10 list.

Credit card companies also were present on both top advertiser lists. Mastercard ranked among the top 4 during both periods. Though American Express led the pre-Memorial Day list, it fell from view before the following holiday. Mastercard gained a much more significant share of voice before July 4, scoring about 82 percent

Top 50 Internet Advertisers by Media Value,
April 2008
Pre Memorial Day Travel Site Advertiser Share of Voice Pre July 4 Travel Site Advertiser Share of Voice
American Express 5.43% Universal Orlando 5.61%
Best Buy 4.4% AT&T Wireless 5.41%
Mastercard 3.83% Colonial Williamsburg 4.87%
Vonage 3.62% Mastercard 4.82%
Best Western 3.51% Washington, D.C. 4.35%
Subaru 2.76% Best Buy 4.15%
AT&T Wireless 2.75% Westin Hotel & Resorts 3.54%
United Airlines 2.72% Hotel Wolcott 3.35%
Marriott 2.63% Carrentals.com 3.11%
AT&T 2.36% Expedia 2.96%

Data provided by The Media Trust Company, 2008

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