THE NEXT HOTEL ADVERTISING FRONTIER

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With the latest in addressable ad technology, the in-room television is now an even more powerful hub for message delivery

Digital-out-of-home has always had a strong presence in the modern hotel environment, with the in-room television serving as the flagship delivery vehicle for advertising messaging targeted to the “on-the-go” consumer. 

Tech-savvy, affluent travelers, who often are social influencers and corporate decision makers, make up one of the most desirable audience segments, accounting for 50 to 60 percent of all travel expenditures. However, as wireless technology has evolved, this perfect audience has become increasingly dependent on personal devices, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones for entertainment and information.

This raises the inevitable question: How will advertisers continue to reach these coveted consumers when their eyes and minds are often glued (or at least diverted) to their gadgets?

The answer is to utilize (and not avoid) the traveling consumer’s multitude of mobile devices in an integrated DOOH strategy and not fear so-called “device distraction.” In other words, just as other industry verticals have found new and exciting ways to link and sync product offerings via interactive television (or social TV), driving engagement through apps, QR codes and mobile sites, advertisers must also embrace a level of device duality: a pair of eyes on pairs of screens.

But before we map the boundaries of this new digital and multi-screen landscape, it’s important to remember that DOOH advertising is nothing new. Innovation in the “first frontier” was, and continues to be, equally vital. Even with a plethora of other entertainment options, television viewing has remained relatively steady and is, by far, the most dominant means of ingesting video. According to Nielsen, Americans spend 35 hours each week watching content across screens, and 94 percent of that is still on a traditional television. Furthermore, Internet protocol TV (IPTV) continues to grow, with a recent study finding 18 percent of consumers watch online content daily via their connected televisions.

With such powerful statistics, there is no doubt that the in-room television still provides advertisers with the most bang for their buck. But the addition of a mobile component—a second screen experience—offers real synchronicity and additional opportunities to personally connect with, and target, traveling consumers in the hotel space and even beyond the property.

A Screen in Every Room
Although the first widespread installation of in-room televisions occurred in 1951, it wasn’t until the late 70s that the first complete digital signage network was born for hotels, coming on the heels of the VCR. With this cutting-edge tool, hotels were able to establish closed-circuit networks that displayed company-created content—including ads—to guests through their in-room television sets.

In 1980, the Satellite Movie Co. brought some of the earliest interactive entertainment options for hotel guests through cathode ray tube (CRT) television sets that included “welcome channels,” which served as guest portals to a hotel’s amenities and in-room entertainment offerings, as well as displaying paid ad content. Advertisers were also provided with expanded opportunities to connect with traveling consumers via free-to-guest video-on-demand programming.

As televisions slimmed down in size and price, flat-screen technology allowed hotels to move digital signage beyond the hotel room and into the property’s common areas, transforming lobbies from static, echoing areas to check in and meet up into a Starbucks-like social interactive experience. Advertisers were then able to utilize screens displaying paid advertising as well as hotel-produced content focused on services, special events, restaurants and special offers. Expanding the out-of-room capabilities, digital kiosks have also provided a delivery channel for advertisers to connect with consumers with relevant messaging for items like transportation services and local attractions.

The Emergence of the Mobile Device
Today’s traveling consumer is more connected than ever, with 75 percent of travelers carrying smartphones on their trips. In addition, 64 percent of business travelers also bring their tablets along, according to a survey by San Diego-based PC Housing. And they’re not just packing them, as consumers are relying on their mobile devices for entertainment, local content and, if they are available, hotel services via apps or a mobile website. Mobile, however, should not be feared. Mobile provides an unparalleled opportunity to deliver messaging that reaches guests throughout the entire travel experience: in room, on property or on the go.

What’s more, mobile users tend to be more receptive to advertising, as a recent survey found that 74 percent of mobile users pay full attention to ads on their devices.

The Cross-Platform Opportunity
With mobile closing the digital out-of-home loop for hotel advertisers, there is no better time to devise an interactive DOOH strategy to reach traveling consumers that brings together the full gamut of signage options and screen experiences.

With its reach and targeting capabilities, the in-room television should be the starting point for connecting with the affluent, on-the-go consumer. Metrics tell us that 98 percent of hotel guests watch television in their rooms and that they do it for an average of three hours. That’s nearly a days worth of viewing in a one-week getaway.

For a truly integrated strategy in the personal device era, advertisers should develop mobile messaging that reinforces in-room TV advertising themes and expands the engagement with traveling consumers, taking into consideration that 52 percent of adult mobile owners will supplement their television watching with their phone and that a staggering 88 percent of iPad owners can’t resist the urge to tap away. With that in mind, advertisers can create cross-platform messaging that is location and property specific, and utilizes QR codes, apps and mobile sites.

Advertising within a hotel or third-party app can also reinforce interactions beyond the hotel room and even the hotel property as they deliver relevant content that travelers want while in-trip: think hotel services, in-room controls and local area attractions.

The Flagship Gets a Refit
Guest engagement with the in-room TV has motivated advertisers to place messages on these screens for years. With the latest in addressable ad technology, the in-room television is now an even more powerful hub for message delivery. These technologies can also deliver marketing messages to guests’ mobile devices for an interactive, 360-degree experience.

While the digital interaction between guests and brands may have once been limited to the hotel room and screens in common areas, now hotels with digital content networks that include mobile apps and sites can maintain that interaction even when guests have left the hotel property. Tablets and smartphones that deliver relevant and timely content and advertiser messaging that link back to what the TV viewer is watching in real time is the best way to turn that device distraction into device domination.

As a marketing medium poised to become a $7 billion industry by next year (representing 40 percent growth since a 2011 prediction), tapping the mobile resource in hospitality to the fullest—through smartphones and tablets—is paramount.

So whether it’s the remote or the latest mobile gadget, the next DOOH hotel advertising frontier truly is in the palms of guests’ hands.

Now, capturing this great opportunity is up to you.

Derek White is the president of LodgeNet Interactive Media & Entertainment (LIME).

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