Search soaring but travel buying habits changing

A report produced by the Internet Advertising Bureau in March revealed the importance of paid-for search to the travel trade.

The discipline now commands a 57.8% share of the UK’s online media spend across all sectors, with £1.1 billion put into pay-per-click campaigns in 2006.

But while search advertising is arguably one of the most important elements in the modern travel company’s marketing mix, changes in consumers’ online buying patterns appear to be challenging traditional demand strategies for travel campaigns.

The peak new year booking period, where search engines see the highest volumes for clicks and sales for travel advertisers, did soar in 2007, as it had done in previous years, says London-based agency The Search Works.

“Increasingly savvy searchers are no longer rushing for the January offers and are waiting for better deals to come along in later months,” says travel account director Janet Davies.

The agency reckons the competition among travel companies will be fierce this summer and it has already agreed its highest ever search budgets for this July and August.

The IAB research also pointed to the gradual decline of other advertising mediums as online continues its phenomenal growth.

But marketers are increasingly adopting large multimedia campaigns where offline messages are used to drive consumers to websites. “It would be easy to assume that, based on this trend, advertisers are turning their backs on TV and newspapers in favour of search and other digital strategies,” Davies says.

“This is true to some extent, but what we are also seeing more of is clients adopting an integrated approach to their advertising, and making offline and online work together.”

The multimedia approach does not extend to other areas of online advertising in most sectors. Banners and skyscrapers accounted for just 16% (around £320 million) of all online advertising in 2006.

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