Inside Expedia’s plan to be the world’s travel media network

2024/05/21 Innoverview Read

Expedia today (May 14) at its annual Explore partner event revealed a travel media network that builds on two decades of advertising experience. The Expedia Group Media Solutions offering combines first-party traveler intent and purchase data with on- and offsite ad tools, planning and measurement capabilities and access to an in-house creative team.

The launch of Expedia Group’s Travel Media Network comes as more players enter the booming media network space, with companies like ChaseMarriott and ride-hailing leaders Uber and Lyft joining a growing list that already includes most major retailers and grocers. U.S. retail media ad spend nearly hit $50 billion in 2023 — similar to what advertisers spent on national and local linear TV — and is expected to grow another 30% this year, per Advertiser Perceptions U.S. Advertising Market Outlook.

For Expedia, the time for a built-out media network is now: not only has the company sold advertising for decades, but it has “unparalleled” global reach and scale, encompassing 200 booking sites in more than 70 countries, along with a B2B network that includes more than 60,000 partners, according to Rob Torres, senior vice president of media and affiliate solutions.

“We've seen this happening with some retailers and other type of commerce platforms, but you haven't seen a lot of that in travel,” said Torres, who joined Expedia in 2022 after 16 years in Google's travel advertising business. “Not all of the smaller companies have that data and travel insights to bring together in a big media network like we can. We think that we're onto something here because of that opportunity.”

Journeys before journeys

Before they can make trips of their own, customers must first navigate a travel purchase journey that is increasingly complex. Travelers, on average, view 141 pages of travel content in the 45 days before booking a trip, and nearly 3 in 5 travelers don't have a specific destination in mind or have considered multiple destinations, per data shared by Expedia.

“We're trying to solve a problem for our advertisers,” said Jennifer Andre, vice president of business development for Expedia Group Media Solutions. “It's overwhelming for them to figure out how to find that traveler and how to tie it all together and make their media buying easier.”

Expedia's travel network leverages first-party intent data to target high-value travelers with onsite advertising as well as offsite ads on YouTube and connected TV, relying on a media, insight and planning team that spent over 12,000 hours in 2023 helping advertising partners to optimize their campaigns. The network is also partnered with publishers and platforms including Netflix and Disney+ that allow for extensions into newly created inventories.

“We can put together these robust campaigns for our partners that are multifaceted and actually reach that customer wherever they are throughout their travel journey,” Torres said.

For an example of what Expedia can do, the company shared the results of a co-created campaign with nonprofit travel board Visit California that ran in London's Heathrow Airport. Expedia had both the inventory, having bought out all of the billboards in Terminal 5, and the insight that Visit California should target UK travelers, resulting in an effort that gave the brand 100% share of voice in the terminal and generated 275 million total impressions.

“It wasn't [Visit California] just buying out-of-home in isolation — they were buying it as part of our travel media network with owned-and-operated channels and other components of their strategy with us,” Andre explained.

Opportunities for growth

Media networks continue to offer more and refined capabilities, around everything from content creation to measurement. With its ad offerings, data and insights and in-house creative team, Expedia wants to be a “one-stop shop” for travel advertisers.

“For our endemic partners that we're already working with, it may we may already have large strategic deals, but this just gives them an opportunity to go even deeper and potentially see us in a different way,” said Andre. “Not just 'Hey, I want to spend money on Expedia, how many bookings can you drive?' — we actually have the opportunity to create awareness and get them in front of travelers throughout the wider ecosystem.”

Expedia executives also highlighted a lesser known offering about a B2B network that extends its capabilities to more than 60,000 partners. The B2B network is expected to be a "growth vehicle" for both the network and Expedia overall, Torres noted.

“Many of those partners where we are serving up hotel supply, we're also serving up our sponsored listings for hotels, so there's a way for our partners to extend their presence,” Andre added. “We don't think those people realize how big we are in that space and how Expedia is showing up and powering other players in the space.”

The company's refreshed presence in the media network space also comes as industry leaders pave the way for determining what such offerings can mean for all advertisers. Walmart Connect and Home Depot's recently rebranded Orange Apron Media network are both making overtures to non-endemic brands outside of their respective retail and home improvement categories, a path that could be a "huge opportunity" for Expedia, Andre said.

“We do work with some non-endemics now, but we think that this is going to open up the opportunity as we look at offering this audience off-site and working with some of our brand partnerships,” Torres added. “It could be a big, big deal.”

(Copyright: MarketingDive Inside Expedia’s plan to be the world’s travel media network | Marketing Dive)