Booking.com’s first ATL in Australia brings the emotion back to online travel

It surprised everyone but itself when it was named Australia’s biggest and fastest-growing online travel agent (OTA) by Experian Hitwise, and now Booking.com is looking to further distance itself from the competition by launching its first above-the-line campaign in Australia.

Since launching in Australia five years ago, Booking.com has relied heavily on paid search, the bread and butter of OTA players, but this campaign is a move to build on its continuing growth and forge a more emotional connection with travellers.

Paul Hennessy, CMO of Booking.com, says the Hitwise stats are nice, but unsurprising and ultimately not all-important given the company’s focus on ‘getting it right’ for the customer. “We manage everything from impressions to bookings to repeat, and what we find, both here in Australia and world wide, is once customers experience the Booking.com website, they’re super loyal, and that’s why I think this build in traffic is coming.”

Testing and learning is a core theme that Hennessy implies, both in terms of Booking.com’s product offerings and campaign implementation. The ‘Booking.yeah’ campaign (see the TVC below) has launched only in the US until now, and while the Australian launch is starting strong an with an unconventionally emotive TV spot to grow awareness, there’s no planned end date to the campaign, and various other media are being trialled. Hennessy says online has served the brand well with its ability to target areas where inventory coverage is strong, but the above-the-line campaign is taking it to another level, and potentially globally: “We’re testing market by market. This one is launching [this week] here in Australia and then we’ll see how it does, and ultimately we’ll evaluate whether this particular piece of creative can extend in to more locations.”

Developed by Weiden + Kennedy Amsterdam, in Booking.com’s home country the Netherlands, with creative direction from ECD and Aussie expat, Eric Quennoy, the creative strategy takes a starkly different route than the common themes of price, range and… price.

Instead, the campaign, which will incorporate broadcast, print, online and social, has as its core strategic insight the ‘delight of right’, which Quennoy says is about that moment, after travel-bookers have suffered the pressure and risk that’s riding on such an emotionally-important process, in which they realise they got it right, despite the doubts. “Executionally, we really found it interesting to play off that tension that exists when you are approaching that property. It think we’ve all been there, and we thought it was a brilliant moment to capture on film… everything hinges on that moment,” Quennoy says.

A playlist of the ‘Booking.yeah’ spots:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkluRL5j7bE&feature=share&list=SPC6Fyty6foEycpZEj_3LCTJgvQpkgnQG8