The Google team hosted it’s first ever “Think Travel” event here in the Middle East today at the Lebanon Island (World Islands) in Dubai. A well-chosen, buzz-worthy venue, no doubt…most attendees were equally keen about the event as they were to see the state of the (much touted) World Islands. All in all an eventful day with a great mix of insights and industry discussions, garnished liberally with rhetoric.
Mohammad Gawdat, Google’s VP for Emerging Markets (SEEMEA) kicked things off on a nostalgic note, putting the current rise of the Internet in perspective with other media like print, radio and TV. Obviously the internet calls for a new approach to marketing…and the opportunities to offer richer, more personalized experiences are only limited by marketer creativity these days (and budgets!).
Nigel Huddleston, Google’s seasoned Travel Industry head for EMEA followed with a good overview on the state of travel search, aided in part by Google Insights… no surprises here, but the message reinforced what digital marketers have been seeing…mobile taking its rightful place in the marketing arsenal, search queries maturing into more specific terms & phrases and travel shoppers becoming savvier about how, where & when they search + shop.
Abdul Wahed Teffaha, Secretary General of the Arab Air Carriers Organization followed, with a brief overview of the air travel sector here in the Middle East…again, no surprises – two pieces of trivia that stood out for me: (1) The average age of the fleet for Arab owned airlines is approx 7 years, compared to 20+ years in the US and 15+ years in Europe (there are also plans to replace / add up to a 1000 planes over the next 10 years). (2) Despite acknowledging the importance of digital marketing and social media, the average increase in IT related spending by airlines in the region is roughly just 1.5% (given 1/3rd of airline costs are fuel related, this may still represent a significant absolute numeric amount, however it still seems quite miniscule related to the rapid pace of change and innovation in the digital space…not sure if it does justice?)
Damien Viel then took the stage and talked about YouTube and the rise of video…lots of great trivia here e.g. 10 years of video are added to YouTube every day now…plus 300 years of YouTube hosted video are watched globally on Facebook every day. It appears 68% of online shoppers also rely on some form of video when researching travel online…and exposure to 4 screens (e.g. mobile, desktop, etc) results in 24% more brand recall than using just TV to push video marketing content. 90% of instream video ads on YouTube will also likely be skippable, which of course is a great way to encourage the creation of more compelling content. Speaking to Damien over lunch it was clear that education / awareness was still a mountain to climb, with many creators / companies still not getting the basics right (for example…producing video in high definition as a standard for better engagement – many still don’t do this despite no incremental cost involved).
Google is also looking to make the move beyond the US to introducing high-quality content channels in international markets, which is welcome news.
A great low-budget, high-impact viral video from the travel vertical…STA Travel’s “MOVE”
At the other end of the spectrum…the traditional (but experiential) product videos still do the trick too:
Here’s a recent viral that Damien shared to illustrate the immense emotional power of video…(almost 8 million views in the 4 months since it was posted…a tear jerker that even had some men in the audience misty-eyed)