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Eye for Travel Hong Kong: “The Shift to Digital and Programmatic Advertising”

A record cold spell brought temperatures down to 4 degrees C, and ice to the Victoria Peak, the weekend prior to the Eye for Travel conference in Hong Kong. Needless to say, coming from sun-drenched Singapore, we were blue the minute we landed, and though temperatures normalized across the week, we were positively missing the warmer climes back home.

That said, pre-Lunar New Year Hong Kong radiated a sense of busy excitement. The land of dim sums, blinding street lights, and mega malls proudly showcased its astonishing harbor view and skyline, dressed in hues of red. It is still, in my view, one of the most beautiful skylines in Asia.

Hong Kong harbor (courtesy of Bianca Loo)

Hong Kong harbor (courtesy of Bianca Loo)


Eye for Travel: The changing face of travel marketing in Asia-Pacific

And here we found ourselves again, at the annual Eye for Travel conference – an event for some real hobnob-ing, attended by many of the most senior executives across the travel scene in Asia. We were surrounded by players across OTAs, meta-searches, and tech suppliers, alongside airline execs from Cathay & Emirates, and hospitality top shots Shangri La & Hyatt. So we were all in great company when Stewart Hunter took the stage to represent Sojern APAC on an interesting panel titled: “Marketing Changes: The Shift to Digital & Programmatic Advertising.”

Now this session would make you grab your popcorn and head for a front row seat, as the panel featured an attention-grabbing bunch, including direct competitors and some last-minute additions, for added “spice.” We opened the panel with an explanation of programmatic display advertising in its essence, with Stewart describing how it is “performance driven, giving you the ability to control impression by impression when you want to advertise to a selected audience.”

Stewart Hunter (second from the left) addressing the EyeforTravel audience

Stewart Hunter (second from the left) addressing the EyeforTravel audience

What is the real value of programmatic advertising?

The heat in the room turned several notches up, obliterating the cold winds blowing outside, when one panelist quipped, quite matter-of-factly, that “programmatic display advertising doesn’t have any direct impact on marketing outcome,” citing a one-off case study. Sojern came to the fore in its defense, emphasizing that:

“If you can actually understand the data and intent behind a consumer action, and make sense of that, programmatic can be a powerful tool to engage users with a brand.”

We showcased the excellent case study on Hertz (kudos to the Car rental team for giving Team International a big boost here!), and how we generated performance through “reputable methodologies of tracking,” showing ads at a “window of opportunity which was most effective to driving conversions.”

We also tackled the proverbial concern regarding quality and context of ad placements, with Stewart Hunter stating that:

“It is not just reaching out to 3rd party sources or qualified ad inventory, but also understanding how you as a business define success and measure and continually optimize towards that.”

The floor was a flurry of dialogue all around – an audience member asked how brands like Hyatt actively selected their vendors and mitigated duplication issues from buying across similar suppliers. Stewart H. responded with the reinforced need to identify who has the best knowledge about the “traveler intent, and best utilization of that data to leverage performance,” that will be the true determinant of performance differentiation.

Hats off to Stewart indeed for fielding one of the toughest panelists and open floor sessions yet!

As programmatic display media sparks debate and interest across Asia, and visibility of platforms like Sojern become increasingly apparent, asserting our uniqueness and value proposition becomes more crucial than ever before.

Never a dull moment in Hong Kong.

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Bianca Loo

About Bianca

Bianca is Sojern APAC's employee #1 and current Sales Director for Hotels & Tourism. She lives and breathes all things travel, marketing and media, having worked for companies like Singapore Airlines, Discovery Channel and Wego. A big nature lover, she relishes any chance to escape Singapore's urban jungle to gallivant around Asia, hiking up peaks and diving into the deep blue.