Advertising for Travel Agencies – Buying Media | TravelResearchOnline

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Advertising for Travel Agencies – Buying Media

Advertising is a high-stakes business. As we indicated yesterday, it is often the most visible part of a travel agency’s marketing plan and takes up a large percentage of the marketing budget. Choosing the appropriate media to present your advertising is therefore a very important decision. Here are a few basic concepts that will assist you in selecting the media you should use. We will discuss print advertising primarily, but the lessons apply to all media.

In selecting your media for an advertisement, there are three important factors:

  • You message – what is the demographic you hope to reach?
  • The circulation of the media – what is the size and demographic of the readership of the media?
  • The investment required – What is the cost and, more importantly, the anticipated return on investment? Cost is often broken down per reader (viewer) or per thousand readers.

The first step in effective advertising is to become a student of advertising. Gather together a collection of the media in your community in which you would most likely choose to advertise. Don’t forget to look at low circulation media like neighborhood magazines and newsletters from local retailers. Obtain from their advertising departments a “media kit” which will contain their circulation numbers and a description of their demographic. Look at the advertisers that are currently advertising in each media. How closely do their advertising strategies seem to match up with your own? Study their ad layout, the copy they use and, if possible, look at their advertising over a period of time to see how they vary their ads. Take note of whether their ads are primarily branding advertising or whether they are more tactically oriented at generating immediate sales. Don’t hesitate to visit with some of the advertisers to ask them how well the media is performing for them.


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There is sometimes a temptation to advertise in as many venues as possible, or to advertise in the largest general circulation vehicle available. However, most travel consultants who have found success in their advertising efforts have done so by limiting their advertising to a few key media outlets where they can afford to consistently appear. There is little doubt that the keys to marketing effectively are finding the right demographic and then advertising consistently. It takes multiple exposures to your message before the average consumer will respond, before they associate your brand with their need.

Thus, when planning your marketing strategies, you should look at the cost of marketing in the same media for a period of months, not for a single run. In fact, most marketing experts will tell you that a bare minimum is typically a run of seven ad units over a compressed period of time. When the same group of readers see your ad seven times, they are more likely to think of your company when a need arises.

Many general circulation newspapers will impress you with their large number of readers. However, the chances are very good that only a core percentage of their circulation matches the demographic you are trying to reach. While advertising in general circulation media certainly has its place, also consider the following, more targeted options:

  • Use niche publications – Seek out smaller, local publications with well-defined readership and demographic, then pitch your ad to the demographic and interests of the publication’s audience.
  • Ask for “remnants” – close to publication time, there is always some ad space in a magazine or newspaper than has not been sold. Let your advertising rep know you are interested and to contact you with good remnant opportunities.
  • Retailer Newsletters – some retailers, yoga studios, clothing stores, salons have print or email newsletters. Talk to the owner about a $25 ad or even a trade.
  • Classified or grouped ads – some periodicals offer “grouped” ads – a collection of small ads in a defined section of their publication that are a version of a classified ad. In some markets, these are well read and worth investigating.
  • Seek out co-op money – some suppliers will pay for part of the cost of running ads featuring their product. Many suppliers have formal programs, others do so on an ad-hoc basis. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but have a media plan in place and a justification of your expected ROI when you ask.

When you advertise in local media, it is important to tap all of the resources at your disposal. One place to look for good advice is your own ad rep for the newspaper, magazine or other media you are paying to place your ad.  Most experienced ad reps see dozens, even of hundreds, of travel advertisements over the course of a year. They know what works, but may not relate the information to you unless you ask. If fact, do not hesitate to go “all the way to the top.” Ask to speak to your ad rep’s manager or the publisher of the publication to gain insight into what types of ads are effective. Chances are, other travel planners have advertised in the publication before you. Gain the advantage of their already spent dollars by inquiring about their success. Ask to see their ad copy, if available, and discuss their efforts with your representative.

This type of research and careful selection of media will ensure that you have the best possible opportunity for your advertising to be seen by the people you most want to see it.

Tomorrow – Generating effective creative

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