(Originally posted by Forbes, February 2019)
In September 2017, Puerto Rico was devastated in the wake the of Hurricane Maria. The category four hurricane was the most powerful storm to strike the Caribbean island in over 90 years. There were widespread reports of power outages, badly damaged hotels and restaurants, the need for clean water and popular beaches were closed for swimming. The images coming from Puerto Rico were of mass destruction.
Tourism is a vital part of Puerto Rico’s economy. Typically, Puerto Rico has over five million visitors a year and they spend nearly $4 billion. Tourism accounts for approximately 8% of the Caribbean island’s economy and employs over 80,000 people.
After Hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company along with the Grain Group, a brand performance media agency, put together a media strategy to drive demand, while the government was repairing the island’s infrastructure. Puerto Rico made a rapid recovery– six months after Maria, over 85% of the island’s hotels were fully operational and the amount of daily air travel and cruise ships were nearly restored to pre-Maria numbers. Puerto Rico Tourism with the assistance of The Grain Group, Goldfish Ads (a startup), Lucid (which managed the research panel) and XUMO (as a connected TV partner), used an advanced strategy targeting would-be tourists.
To convey the message that Puerto Rico was “open for business,” the agency used several advanced strategies. This included the use of “first” and “third” party data and psychographic information to target ad messages based on such elements as likelihood to visit. The audience data came from a number of sources including visitors to travel websites, consumers searching for Caribbean or family vacation, social media posts and direct booking sources.
The ad campaign included mobile, digital out-of-home and six-second ads on connected TV (CTV). By using CTV’s addressable advertising capabilities, the ad messaging varied based on a viewer’s own data-driven profile. Once a person booked a trip to Puerto Rico, he or she was no longer targeted. The ad campaign began in late January 2018 when consumers begin thinking of taking a spring vacation, and within three months there was a noticeable increase of spring tourists with hotel bookings approaching full capacity. The ad campaign ran until June 2018.
At the end of the ad campaign, room fill levels were back to normal in Puerto Rico. Lucid’s classic “A/B test” showed those reached by the six-second CTV ads were 64% more likely to agree that Puerto Rico is ready for tourists. Benjamin Jurist, the Founding Partner of Grain Group, commented, “Connected TV and short-form video are areas of significant interest and investment growth for our clients. We were impressed by Goldfish’s ability to identify and reach highly qualified prospective travelers through connected TV, and to significantly move both brand and business metrics for the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.”
The television industry continues to look for new tactics to keep marketers from allocating more ad dollars to digital media. Part of these tactics were used by Puerto Rico Tourism. First, there was the use of six second ads, a format that began with digital media. Also, by using CTV they were able to measure “bottom of the marketing funnel” attributes such as consideration, preference and purchasing that is more prevalent with digital media.
eMarketer estimates that connected TVs will reach 57.2% of the U.S. population this year, up from 47.4% in 2016. Despite continued growth in usage, the use of CTV is a nascent media strategy. Of the $70 billion spent on TV ads, only $2.1 billion will be spent on targeted, addressable TV ads and $1.7 billion of TV ad spend will be transacted programmatically. Yet, as media consultant Bill Harvey points out, “Standard Media Index shows that new forms of TV advertising are growing 14 times faster than the rest of TV.”
Six-second ads had been popularized by YouTube’s “bumper ads” in 2016 and was introduced to television on Fox the following year. Since then, six-second ads have aired on several networks and on such top-rated programs as the NFL, the Olympics, The Walking Dead, and the American Music Awards. Andrew Simon, the CEO of Goldfish Ads, states “advertisers are getting clarity on the impact that shorter ads can have.”
Despite the amount of attention six-second TV commercials has gotten, so far they account for a tiny fraction of total ads. According to Kantar Media, of the nearly two million commercials on network TV (broadcast and cable) airing in November 2018, fewer than 100 were six seconds long.
Shorter TV ads go back to the very early stages of commercial television. The very first TV ad was for Bulova watches and aired in 1941. It was nine seconds long. Sometimes something that is old may soon be new again.