Picture from Kayak: Sheep Happens
The scale of television advertising by online travel firms this January has been described as a “watershed moment” and a “clear threat” to established brands.
The likes of Kayak, Cheapflights, Travel Republic and On The Beach have launched campaigns as they target UK television audiences.
But marketing experts say there are opportunities for firms with smaller budgets to fight back.
Steve Dunne, vice-chairman of industry marketing body Cimtig and executive chairman of BrighterPR, said: “This year’s emergence of pure online brands moving into television marks a watershed moment in travel marketing.
“Television has largely been the domain of well-known high street brands and ads have followed a tried-and-tested formula.
“Now, online players are injecting a new energy into the holiday proposition. They must move into the mainstream arena if they are to grow awareness and gain that all-important trust.
“This presents a clear and present threat, and could erode the reputational advantage mainstream players have enjoyed in the past.”
Dean Harvey, digital development director at advertising agency Designate, agreed digital brands had reached saturation point online.
But he said smaller firms should not despair, as they could exploit cost-effective channels such as YouTube and Sky’s AdSmart service for regional and demographic targeting.
“For the big online guys, it’s exponentially more expensive if someone finds you through a generic holiday term on Google than on a brand search,” he said.
“It could be £5 a click versus 20p.
“If you are on TV, you are a credible brand. The power of TV has never gone away; we have just got distracted by the internet over the past 10 years.
“For the smaller guys, there are other opportunities to be visual. You don’t have to be on TV. You can be quite targeted.
“On YouTube, the big guys just tend to use their TV ad, but you can be cleverer and create an unskippable five to 10-second ad. That should be cost-efficient.”
Price comparison site Kayak, owned by the world’s most valuable travel firm, Priceline, has produced one of this peak period’s more quirky and memorable ads.
A spokesman said the UK was a key market but one in which it had not previously invested significantly, so its new “heavyweight” campaign had to stand out.
“We have invested in a heavyweight multi-touchpoint launch for the UK,” he said. “We’ve started as we mean to go on.”