Digital Video Marketing Strategies for Travel Brands

by Joyce Manalo + Skift Team - May 2015

Skift Research Take

Over the past ten years, digital video has matured and permeated the social sharing and mobile viewing environments. As ad products evolve to make video more interactive and audience more targetable, travel brands need to rethink their content mix to stay relevant.

Report Overview

Executive summary

Travel brands need to understand that video marketing isn’t just about publishing great looking videos — planning a robust distribution strategy is key. Creating content that meets travelers motivations, keeping up with what the creative community is pushing out, and doing the work in understanding which devices, video platforms, and social media channels are receptive to video will enable brands to better tell stories that target and convert would-be visitors at the right time.

YouTube and Facebook are coming out as clear leaders in the battle for video views as mobile devices become more popular in consuming short-form content. Brands need to pay close watch to the developments in video advertising on these two major platforms to maximize their opportunity to make an impression.

Executive summary

Travel brands need to understand that video marketing isn’t just about publishing great looking videos — planning a robust distribution strategy is key. Creating content that meets travelers motivations, keeping up with what the creative community is pushing out, and doing the work in understanding which devices, video platforms, and social media channels are receptive to video will enable brands to better tell stories that target and convert would-be visitors at the right time.

YouTube and Facebook are coming out as clear leaders in the battle for video views as mobile devices become more popular in consuming short-form content. Brands need to pay close watch to the developments in video advertising on these two major platforms to maximize their opportunity to make an impression.


Video can give travelers access to places both familiar and remote through unique perspectives and never-before-seen views: rising, descending, hovering and weaving through mountaintops, city streets, oceans, and crowds. It also facilitates a human connection whereby travelers who are seeking a deeper understanding of a culture can see and hear about what locals and fellow travelers love about a destination.

In addition to its visual and audio element, video has the ability to alter time: Slowing down crashing waves at Inis Mór off the coast of Ireland or speeding up the aurora borealis in Iceland’s night sky with a time-lapse. Although time is a critical element in video’s completion rate, it is asynchronous. Today, anyone can shoot, broadcast, and watch the video at a later time or in real-time.

Travel brands are in a unique position to tell a story with this compelling medium because the supply of inspiration from destinations, attractions, and activities are unlimited. The hope is, enough viewers are moved to tell others about what they saw and associate that viewing experience with the brand.

Since 2008, YouTube has hosted videos from Visit Florida, Turkish Airlines, Priceline and Matador Network, to name a few. According to SkiftIQ — Skift’s social media dashboard — travel media companies, online travel agencies, and booking tools took the lead in average number of videos uploaded, while seven out of the top ten most viewed travel brands were airlines.

Over the last decade, video has branched out from television screens in our living rooms, to computers in our bedrooms, to open laptops during transit, to handheld smartphones and tablets glanced at during times of respite, to digital billboards some eight stories tall in Times Square.

Computers and smartphones with built-in cameras — from the iPhone to GoPros, DJI drones, and 360° video holders — are changing the way we see the world, each other, and ourselves. Life is imitated and re-interpreted from the new first-person narrative made for an always-on audience, with YouTube being the catalyst for video’s explosion and Facebook as a key player in its worldwide distribution.

ComScore predicted in 2011 that global mobile usage will overtake desktop in 20141, and in December 2014, it reported that approximately 700 million minutes were spent on smartphones, while 600 million and 200 million were spent on desktop and tablets, respectively2. We are living in a multi-screen world with mobile at its core.

Travel brands need to take this pivotal moment in digital and YouTube’s tenth birthday as an opportunity to re-evaluate their video strategy and align it with travelers’ appetites for video and cross-device consumption. Delineating between content and marketing efforts will help them better allocate budgets and determine the right key performance indicators. With the growing sophistication of video analytics and video ad networks, travel brands are at an advantage to understand and leverage data to inform creative direction and distribution channels.

Video’s connection to travelers

For a few seconds or minutes, travelers in the early stages of dreaming and planning are looking for options that will inspire, excite, and entice them. According to TripAdvisor, 71 percent of people travel to enhance their perspective, 62 percent to feel liberated3, and 47 percent to immerse themselves in local culture and feel closer to their loved ones.

Creating a short-form, multi-media experience to connect to these motivations is a good start. Google/YouTube reported that online travel videos are influential in the pre-booking phase: 66 percent of leisure travelers watch online travel videos when thinking about taking a trip, 65 percent when choosing a destination, and 63 percent when looking for ideas or activities to do at a particular destinations.4

In 2015, the top three things that travelers will treat themselves to while on holiday is sightseeing, food, and accommodation5. Integrating price, reviews, and proximity to activities — top factors in booking accommodations according to TripAdvisor — will increase the chance of keeping travelers’ attention as they watch videos to completion.

Enhancing their experience

Turkish Airlines’ ad, “Kobe vs Messi Selfie Shootout” couldn’t have been a more targeted approach to the airlines’ Widen Your World campaign. Jaunting from one exotic place to next with Los Angeles Laker basketball star Kobe Bryant and FC Barcelona football player, Lionel Messi as part of social media race around the world was exciting to watch.

Kobe took his first selfie at the Great Wall of China and sent it to Messi, which then resulted in a chase around the world that ended with a photobomb at Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. “The video reached 105 million views in nine days. It was featured on more than 2,000 international blogs. Overall brand awareness increased nine points as a result of the campaign. YouTube search increased by 210 percent and global brand uplift on Google rose to over 16 percent,” said spokesperson for Turkish Airlines.

This year, the airline took inspiration from the out-do theme and pivoted to culinary delights. Messi, who has clearly been around the world dueling it out with Kobe, was joined by Didier Drogba of tChelsea Football Club to discover faraway places and eat the most epic meals that Messi has never experienced. At his last epic meal — that happens to be in first class of Turkish Airlines — he takes a selfie with the chef and the camera zooms out of the plane to show the livery updated with a reproduction of a photo of Messi and the same chef.

Feeling liberated

Taking a break from the daily grind to feel free is another strong reason why people book trips. Out of the top booking sites on SkiftIQ with the most presence on YouTube in terms of number of uploads, Thomson U.K. produced the a series of videos that targeted work hard, play hard millennials.

As part of its latest campaigns, Thomson featured how guests let loose and relax at their partner resorts. This U.K.-based hybrid booking site and travel provider partnered with Heart Radio and ASOS to work with television, music, and radio personalities to connect with young female professionals who are single, in a relationship, or have a family.

TV and Heart FM radio presenter Jenni Falconer, took her daughter on a trip to Mauritius. They stayed at Sugar Beach, a family friendly hotel where there was a pizza making class for kids and spa time for moms. “Dear Diary, This is the life! She [her daughter] hasn’t stopped smiling all day,” said Falconer.

The luxury Sensatori resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico hosted Sophie-Ellis Bextor, British singer-songwriter and a partner. Apparently she took a break from working on her sixth studio album and stumbled upon some adventures like Fatcat Catamaran Excursion and Xoxomilco Excursion. “Sometimes you just need some alone time together,” said Bexter, referring to her romantic partner in crime.

In January of this year, Thomson launched The Scene campaign for millennials who want to party and travel on a budget or treat themselves. Twenty-year old radio and broadcast journalist Maya Jama at Rinse FM was joined by ASOS to subtly peddle its apparel in various scenes. After Jama said, “We’ve just come from the Dreamline plane and freezing cold England, and now we’re in beautiful, sunny Thailand,” the shot jumpcut to an unreal overhead view of the two ladies, sand and surf taken from a drone. This view gave a feeling of being away and free.

In comparison to the Turkish Airline ads with world-renowned athletes and high quality production, these videos were lo-fi and included non-celebrities but influential British personalities with a fanbase. The success of “Selfie Shootout” is not wholly attributed to the celebrity status of its subjects or that Thomson’s videos were poor, in fact they had all the right elements, the misstep was Thomson’s distribution.

The content was not prominently distributed on its channels, i.e., not directly uploaded to the provider’s Facebook page, there was one tweet that mentioned the collaboration with ASOS, and the native video experience on its website did not play.

Airbnb also falls under the booking and tools vertical that does tremendously well with its videos, but it is on a crusade of its own. This company will be mentioned later in this report.

Going local

Destination marketing organizations and tourism boards rely on locals to be ambassadors for their country, state, city, or town. Getting to know individuals who are proud dwellers to represent who they are for their locale is one way to satisfy the desire of travelers to get an idea of the local culture and the people behind it. Videos that introduce individuals, celebrities and everyday people living and working in an area lends authenticity to destinations.

Visit California’s year-long Dream Big integrated campaign featured a YouTube 24-hour takeover in February 2014. The library of 24 videos published every hour were about Californians who follow and live their dreams in the state.

Some of the notable personalities that garnered the most views included lead singer Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros talking about taking a leap of faith and performing, “Man on Fire”. The performance was shot in a big top-style tent in Venice Beach. Although it was nearly eight minutes long, it was viewed the most from the collection with 2.5 million views.

A New York transplant, who is is a self-taught cinematographer rode a 15-foot tall bicycle all over Golden Gate Bridge Park in San Francisco. Trimble moved to California to pursue his dream in music production that led him to the film industry. It was nerve-wracking to watch Richie Trimble climb and ride the “Stoopid Tall” bicycle.

“California is inspiring because there’s so many people that do nuts stuff out here,” said Trimble. The minute-long video garnered 1.7 million views, beating out Skater pro, “Big” Bob Burnquist’s catching air on a custom-built floating multi-pipe ramp on Lake Tahoe by 67,000 views.

According to Visit California’s ad tracking research conducted by SMARI showed the Dream365 video content program achieved significant recall spread across the various assets in all countries, contributing to overall digital recall gains of more than 2x the previous year; 20 percent in the U.S.; 28 percent in Canada; 32 percent in U.K.; and 23 percent in Australia.

Everyone knows the best accessory for rodeo season is a great pair of custom cowboy boots! Lucky for you, the Lone Star…

Posted by Texas Tourism on Monday, March 23, 2015

Introducing potential visitors local craftspeople that are part of the cultural fabric is also another way that travel brands can leverage video. Texas Tourism’s latest 25-part video series is about locals who are passionate about what they do. The individuals included in the Texas To Do Films campaign are not as young or do not have the same illustrious names as Visit California’s video subjects, but they are living legends in their own communities.

Lee Miller is a custom (cowboy) boot maker who is located in Austin. He learned this Texan tradition from Charlie Dunn, who is dubbed the “Michelangelo of Cowboy Boots.” Miller gained a noteworthy following of its own and crafted boots for country singer, Lyle Lovett, rock singer Sting, actor Slim Pickens, to name a few, as noted by Texas Monthly.

“Retirees are the most likely to want to immerse themselves in local culture, and prefer city and cultural trips,” cited in TripAdvisor TripBarometer report. Miller is the ideal personality to identify the older demographic with. And better yet for Texas Tourism, he’s someone its average visitor 47 years of age can relate to.6

Texas Tourism is leveraging Facebook’s latest update with its public video view count by uploading the a 15-second clip of videos directly to the channel, as opposed to uploading a link to its video on YouTube or Vimeo. At the end of the video clip on Facebook, it has a card encouraging viewers to “Continue the Story.”

In the Facebook caption, there’s a shortened and trackable link that takes viewers to its website to view the entire piece in a branded digital screening room. On this page, the curious can click on a link to a trip guide and find out more about where to hunt down cowboy boots in other parts of the state. Also, there are three thumbnails of other videos from the Texas To Do Film series to provide choices and additional content to click on.

On YouTube, this video has 169 views, no likes, dislikes or comments. On Facebook, the 15-second teaser clocked in north of 18,300 views, 46 likes, 4 comments, and 1 share. The embedded video on Vimeo does not show views. This scenario provides a more pure experience to watch because the counter was hidden, but at the same time, it missed out on view momentum from seeing the view count.

Devices and connectivity pushing creativity and content

Smartphones and tablets enable us to do much more than make phone calls, send text messages, and read e-mails. Built in cameras and apps leveled the playing field between professional and amateur photographers and videographers.

Mobile-first visual based apps like Instagram, Vine, Snapchat gained popularity because of its of use and network of people. The amount of user-generated content (UGC) has grown exponentially because of the momentum of community engagement taken in the form of likes, shares, and comments.

Travel brands continue to embrace UGC by hosting contests, featuring the most inspiring photos and repurposing images to create blogs that enhance online and offline experiences.

Wifi connection is what pushed greater connectivity between people, which in turn led to a demand of richer experiences. Devices and the digital ecosystem advanced and paved the way for higher quality photos and videos. And instant publishing is being challenged by real-time in-hand broadcast.

The decreasing cost of computing, storage, bandwidth, and smartphones all relate to the evolution of digital creativity. Mary Meeker summed up in her Internet Trends Report in 20147:

  • Global compute cost decline 33 percent every year from $527 in 1990 to a nickel in 2013 for one million transistors.
  • Global storage cost falling by 38 percent annually from $569 in 1992 to two pennies in 2013 for one gigabyte of data.
  • Global bandwidth cost reducing by 27 percent annually from $1,245 in 1999 to $16 in 2013 for one thousand megabytes per second.
  • Global smartphones price lowering by five percent annually from $430 in 2008 to $335 in 2013.

People and businesses are increasingly journaling the world that surround them with photos and videos. Since 2007, Google Street View’s technology pushed the boundaries of photography by capturing a 360° view of what we might see outdoors — cities, parks, and attractions — and inside stores as we search for them, anywhere in the world. And in 2012, it launched Trekker for off the beaten path destinations only reachable by foot like the Grand Canyons.

In 2013, people can “go back and time” to witness how the earth’s surface has changed over the past 25 years thanks to satellite footage. A year later, people can explore street views as far back as 2007. All this data translates to a virtual historical reality.

Pure Michigan was one of the latest tourism boards that was included in the program. More than two dozen remote and iconic locations were filmed, including Wagner Falls. Chad Wiebesick, Director of Social Media and Interactive Marketing at Pure Michigan claimed, “we took it to the one city in America where vehicles have been banned for over 100 years.”

For tourism boards, airlines, hotels, tours and travel providers, this is a very visual way to present destinations, in-cabin and in-room experiences, attractions and activities. Doing so gives travelers a sense of familiarity. The reality is, purchasing a trip can’t be experienced before-hand. Buying a plane ticket or hotel room is vastly different from buying a pair of expensive shoes. With that said, the travel industry is in the position of culling from imagination to turn images and video to a more powerful medium.

As these locations are being shot, as a whole we are creating a visual carbon copy of our world that has a view into the near past. Simultaneously, we are mapping ourselves as we take selfies, categorize photos and videos, reveal our locations, and share them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, etc.

With each passing year, our vision is inundated with images and videos seen in one dimension. This will inevitably be a thing of the past. Travel brands that will stand out will be the at the forefront of creating and distributing content that show the world from a new perspective.

The extreme

GoPro, a high-definition video camera company, was founded in 2002 and it started to trade on NASDAQ in 2014. The video quality was never the real reason for its success. It was the unique perspective offered from being mounted on a user’s helmet as they jumped out of a plane, paddled through a rapid, or scuba dived in underwater caves in exotic locations.

Red Bull turned itself from being a beverage for adrenaline junkies into a content powerhouse, referred to as Red Bull Media House thanks to never-before-seen views of extreme sports taken by a pro — often with a GoPro. After GoPro’s initial public offering, it also became its own publisher to harness the creative content from its community of adventurers.

In October 2012, a world-class Austrian skydiver, Felix Baumgartner outfitted with seven of GoPro’s HERO2 cameras successfully completed a freefall from an altitude of 23 miles above sea level — on the edge of the Earth’s stratosphere. Baumgartner broke the sound barrier with his body reaching a velocity of approximately 650 miles per hour.

This event aptly named ‘Stratos’ was co-sponsored by Red Bull and GoPro and was broadcasted live on Red Bull’s YouTube channel. The video clocked more than 8 million concurrent live-streams. Three months later, GoPro released Baumgartner’s footage of the descent and incorporated the footage into a Super Bowl ad.

GoPro and Red Bull carved a new aesthetic, the arrested extreme — the footage is so awe-inspiring that you can’t help but watch. Although these two companies are not in the travel industry, they produce content that showcase unfamiliar destinations, pushing the boundaries of exploration, physical endurance, and the extended play selfie.

Wyoming Office of Tourism approved a Red Bull Media House production to film pro snowboarder and native Travis Rice for a movie early this year. Partnerships like these are advantageous in that high quality films will be distributed to Wyoming’s key international mountain markets.

According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, adventure travel in 2009 and 2013 grew from an $89 billion to a $263 billion sector and Marriott Hotels and Resorts wants in on the action. They partnered with GoPro to provide free cameras to guests at its 17 properties in the Caribbean and Latin America8.

The performance of the HERO4 has advanced to shoot in 16:9 aspect ratio which is the standard format of high definition widescreen televisions and computer screens. Also, the footage has a 4K resolution which makes the finished product have a cinematic quality.

The unreal

Aerial photography is the next of kin from Google’s 360° Street View technology. DJI is the premier quadcopter company that was founded in 2006. It recently launched Phantom 3 Pro that allows for stable shooting outdoor and indoors and live-streams footage from the sky.

The quadcopter shoots in 4K resolution at up to 30 frames per second and takes 12 megapixel stills. This version also comes with an app and a remote control complete with LightRoom editing software.

Every country and city has its own limit with drones. DJI is doing just enough to protect its product and the safety of the public without impeding creativity. It recently declared all airports no fly zones.

Although DJI doesn’t have a recognizable fanbase like GoPro and Red Bull, it has a relationship with SkyPixel — an online community where aerial photographers and filmmakers connect to share their work.

Matador Network is a travel media company that shot the first drone video ahead of its competitors and much of the travel industry. “Palawan from the Air” showed an otherworldly view of an obscure archipelago made up of limestone cliff islands in the Philippines.

When viewed for the first time it made quite an impression, the accompanying music also added to the emotional hook of a new discovery and conquest. This video of hidden beaches is their most popular to date with 340,000 views.

An Instagram influencer company Beautiful Destinations started to play around with drones last year. “The awe factor, unknown element, is most exciting for us,” said Tom Jauncey, Head of Partnerships at Beautiful Destinations.

They shot The Plaza Hotel during the day and at night in New York City with a drone. These videos were posted on Forbes Travel Guide’s Instagram account as part of the hotel’s takeover. Although the likes hovered around the average engagement levels at 1,200 likes per post, it got more people talking with three times more comments.

The low cost of production of these new highly engaging content is a no brainer for brands. “What would take a whole crew that can take ten people, can be created by two people,” said Tom Jauncey, Head of Partnerships at Beautiful Destinations.

The virtual

Marriott's virtual reality "teleporters."

Marriott’s virtual reality “teleporters.”

“A head-mounted three dimensional display,” was the title of Ivan Sutherland’s paper about his project in 1968. Fast forward to 45 years later, twenty-something Palmer Lucky re-invents the headset in his parents’ garage in 2011.9 A year later, he creates a Kickstarter campaign which generated more than $2 million — nearly a 1,000 percent increase from its original goal. His device was a hit at the CES conference in 2013, and Facebook acquires it for $2 billion in 2014.

Some who have been virtual reality fans say it’s about time. Some are still skeptical about the technology. However, a few travel brands are not going to wait for the masses to adopt. Airlines like Air New Zealand, British Airways are experimenting with how travelers can take a tour of its cabins and trying out a destination before making the purchase.

Marriott Hotel’s Teleporter has been by far the most immersive. With the Oculus Rift and a simulator chamber, it transported potential guests to Hawaii’s Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach in Maui and Tower 42 in London. Guests were privy to the multi-sensory experience with the warm sun, ocean mist, and sea breeze as part of the 4-D experience. This experience is an abridged version to 4-D rides at Universal Studios, where the guest sits in car that is equipped to move and jolt about, change temperature, and spray water.

According to Gartner, virtual reality has moved its way out of the trough of disillusionment of the Hype Cycle. This means that this technology is present in our current digital marketing landscape supported by the infrastructure paved by social media channels, users, content, and interactions.

The battle for digital viewership across platforms

Video used to solely exist in television, now it’s on desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Like everything in life, there’s a time and place to consume and publish videos on these devices.

Whenever and wherever videos are uploaded to a video platform like YouTube or social media channels like Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, they start gaining momentum.

We are living in a multi-screen world, where visual content can be shared to nearby devices with a flick of a finger, changed in real-time, integrated with a company’s customer and inventory database as exhibited by Adobe Screens’ new capabilities.

Understanding the habits of audience on these devices, platforms, and channels gives a more realistic understanding of consumption. Moreover, these psychogeographic insights provides more clues to how travel brands have to test to create and maintain the continuity of the video experience from device to device.


We are in the age of distraction. Viewers can watch videos on desktops, connected televisions, smartphones and tablets. It is easy to say that people who watch video are device agnostic. However, as digital video becomes more and more personalized, cross-device attribution will also become important.

An average of 186 minutes per day are spent on the Internet. It has been more or less the same since 2011 and the increases are attributed to social media and online video. According to this chart, adults spend most of their time watching videos, being social, emailing and searching on a daily basis.


The type of content that is being watched as of 2013 is still TV programs online then online movies. Also, video accounts for twelve percent of time spent on the Internet when comparing it to social networks, emails, search, and online games. Travel brands are competing for seconds from the 22 minutes spent watching online video each day10.

Ooyala, found that more people are still watching general online video content that is ten minutes and longer in duration. With most of them consuming it on their tablets, rather than smart televisions, desktops, and smartphones. The short-form videos that last one to three minutes are the second most watched format most on smartphones in comparison to other devices.

Another report claims that average online video time is longer. For example, eMarketer’s latest report found that American adults will spend an average of 39 minutes watching video on mobile devices — tablets and smartphones — which accounts for more than half of total 76 minutes of average time spent per day with digital video content.11

The data points to smartphones as the device of choice when consuming video content. There is no excuse for travel brands to avoid paying attention to the viewing experience on mobile phones and uncover what it means for their respective brands and fans to consume short form digital video on-the-go.


When looking at viewership of original digital video by screen, across all devices, there are increases in users from 2013 to 2014. Laptops and desktops are the device of choice. Smart televisions are used slightly more than smartphones, while tablets are five percent less, and iPod touches are significantly less.

Smart travel brands understand that creating multiple versions of one video is integral to optimizing the viewing experience. Yes, this means cutting the video to use as teasers, trailers, and clips that vary from  6-second loops fro Vine; 15-seconds for Instagram Video; one- to three-minute trailers on Facebook, YouTube or Vimeo; three- to ten-minute full versions on YouTube, Vimeo, or company websites with white label video players.


Viewership by platforms

On April 23, 2005, Jawed Karim co-founder of YouTube uploaded the first video on YouTube. Today, there are 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. To put that in perspective, that’s 200 feature films; 600 half-hour shows on television; 3,600 five-minute online videos; or 72,000 15-second micro-videos in 60 seconds.

Google/YouTube claims, that it has more than 1 billion users that generate billions of views, where mobile accounts for 50 percent. YouTube’s user base is a third of the three billion global Internet users12.

YouTube revolutionized online video, it still remains the top online property for video but is not the only player. AOL, Yahoo, and Vimeo all want a piece of the action, and so did Facebook. It acquired LiveRail — a video advertising platform — and made video views on all public videos, visible.

At the end of first quarter 2015, Facebook reported 4 billion daily video views of which 70 percent were driven by mobile. This marks a turnover in favor of Facebook in the battle for digital video attention and retention.

According to comScore, Google, primarily driven by YouTube ranked first in unique video viewers with roughly 150 million, Facebook ranked second at 95 million and AOL ranked third 66 million.

In comparison to the monthly average from March 2014, YouTube is down five million and Facebook didn’t gain or lose viewers. Nonetheless, YouTube steadily maintained a monthly pace of being 60 million viewers ahead, despite Facebook’s investment and announcement about its acquisition and daily video views.

Mass media company AOL and hybrid search and media company, Yahoo remain at third and fourth place. Vimeo is consistently outshined by two of YouTube’s original channels, VEVO and Disney/Maker Studios when it makes an appearance in the top ten.

Top U.S. Online Video* Content Properties Ranked by Unique Video Viewers

March 2015

Property Total Unique Viewers (000)
Total Internet Audience 193,302
Google Sites 150,005
Facebook 94,600
AOL, Inc. 65,820
Yahoo Sites 62,867
VEVO 44,363
Maker Studios Inc. 42,906
Vimeo 37,484
Blinkx 36,086
Comcast NBCUniversal 33,882
Turner Digital 33,510

Source: comScore
Note: *A video is defined as any streamed segment of audiovisual content, including both progressive downloads and live streams. For long-form, segmented content, (e.g. television episodes with ad pods in the middle) each segment of the content is counted as a distinct video stream. Video views are inclusive of both user-initiated and auto-played videos that are viewed for longer than 3 seconds.

Social channels

Not only are the video platforms and their original channels and programs competing for users and views, but so are mobile-first apps like Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and newcomers, Meerkat and Periscope. Without a doubt, video took a life its own on these visual-based apps as photos, memes, GIFs, stop-motions, time-lapses, 15- and 6-second loops, ephemeral doodles and live-streams.

In 2011, YouTube claimed that people tell their friends about YouTube content more than any other media with 30 million people clicking on links from Facebook, that was nearly a quarter of YouTube’s unique users at that time13.

As Facebook evolves from a social channel to an omni channel, it has surpassed YouTube in user base and with its investment in video, it will be clocking in more views to videos directly uploaded to posts than videos uploaded to YouTube.

Latest User Data by Digital Property:

Digital Property Monthly Active Users (MAUs) in millions 2014 Founding Year
Facebook 1,440* 2004
YouTube 1,000** 2005
Tumblr 284 2007
Instagram 300 2010
Twitter 284 2006
Snapchat 100 2011
Vine 40** 2013

*As of March 31, 2015
**YouTube users is on a total basis, not monthly active users.
**Vine users on total basis, not monthly active in August 2013.

To drill down further about what kind of videos are consumed on social amateur videos and original digital videos are most popular. The most common behavior on these channels is discovering and clicking on links of amateur video from friends on Facebook and Twitter.

When they come across a link about tv programs online, they click on 38 percent less than they would user-generated content is more popular on social media channels than produced content and people enjoy sharing their thoughts about the video.

The viewers may watch YouTube or other amateur videos with friends, but it doesn’t translate into being a fan. Viewers are more likely to follow an online tv show or an amateur than hosts of original digital video channels.

Distribution of digital content

Creating video content to help raise the awareness of a destination, flyer or guest experience can be costly, but it is imperative that brands craft a digital marketing strategy to distribute their message to the right people, regardless of what device they are on.

As consumers become more aware that they are being targeted ads, travel brands need to be responsible with their strategy. Understanding what their audience is watching, where they can reach more people, and why the content succeeded or failed are imperative on measuring the impact of the campaign.

Although the video players provide important video viewing data, it is a double-edged sword because it is simultaneously sophisticated and overwhelming. Across the board, all the video players need to be more transparent and make it easier for advertisers and creators to be better informed on how the metrics are calculated.

Travel brands in the U.S. are expected to increase their digital advertising spend in the next two years from $3.91 billion in 2014, but it will slow down because of the market’s shift to mobile. When looking at the U.S. companies overall inclusive of travel, the video ad spend was reported at $5.96 billion in 2014. It is clear that travel brands are not investing as much as other industries in video advertising to be top-of-mind.


According to Forrester Research report on North American Online Display Advertising Forecast, 2014 To 2019, the growth of ad spend in online display will be driven by video advertising.14 Innovation will continue to be made in further personalizing and analyzing viewer experience of video content and video ads across all devices.

Monetization of video content

As YouTube evolved, power users known as creators emerged. These everyday people started to gain their own following on the platform. YouTube took notice and invested in a Creator Program to help them monetize their content by placing ads of brands on its content in the form of skippable pre-rolls ads, TrueView.

As a caveat, the YouTube revenue share model — similar to Hollywood producers — was changed from 70 percent to 55 percent under the renewal in 2014. The creator gets 55 percent with a potential to earn more once the threshold of the ad rate is broken15. When the ad does better than expected — reducing the effective rate of the paid media — the creator gets the difference.

Vimeo doesn’t command the audience that the other platforms do, but it is respected by users because it is ad free, where people can pay what they wish or pay the full price to rent or buy the video. With these two payment models, Vimeo collects 15 percent or 10 percent from donated funds, and on demand, respectively.

The creatives that rise out of these visual based platforms or apps like Facebook’s Instagram, Twitter’s Vine, and Snapchat who become influencers represent nodes of digital communities with values and interest that makes them attractive for advertisers.

In 2012, YouTube, AOL, Hulu, and Yahoo, along with agency Digitas LBi hosted a sales event for its partner channels referred to as the Newfronts — an industry sales event similar to Upfronts where commercial spots on broadcast television programs. Last year, YouTube announced Google Preferred, a cozy group that accounts for one percent of the most popular and engaging YouTube partners channels available to high-rolling brands.16

Standardization of video ad units

Since 2006, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has worked on putting forth standards in digital video. Together with the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), they aim to tackle viewability and types of ads to increase the transparency between sellers and buyers of video ads.

When it comes to viewability of video ads, Media Ratings Council considers 50 percent of the pixels must be in view for a minimum of two seconds on desktops17. From an organic view perspective, comScore counts three-seconds as a video view. Facebook is aligned with this standard on its autoplay videos in News Feed. Twitter counts a click to play the video as a video count while Google/YouTube does readily not provide a definition.

As of 2009, in-stream, in-video, streaming, video, are classified as digital video ads. As of yet, the Digital Video Ad Measurement Guidelines have yet to include how these adapt to the mobile and when connectivity can be an issue despite mobile exceeding desktop traffic.

Under IAB’s Social Media Ad Metrics, video is only included as video uploads, installs, and views. At this point in time, monetization of videos ads that are directly uploaded to Facebook and Twitter are not yet possible.

When looking at conversion rates, it is easier to track how well websites, blogs and newsletters push consumers along the funnel. However, when relying on videos to do this, conversions are not as great, because videos are not necessarily clickable.

The Waldorf Astoria implemented a banner ad on the right side of it latest video about Unforgettable Stories — in this case driving luxury sports cars. This linkable video provides a means to make the content more engaging by directing viewers to custom page.

With Facebook’s investment in building its infrastructure to drive business objectives by measuring awareness, ad recall and brand consideration, YouTube is in pursuit of providing the same same value proposition with its new interactive video cards. Users and brands can choose from six of these call-to-actions: merchandise, fundraising, video, playlist, associated website and fan funding that is slated to replace annotations.

Sophistication of video metrics

YouTube, Facebook and Twitter provide standard analytics on videos like average video length, estimated minutes watched, views, demographics, location, and engagement metrics — likes, dislikes, shares, comments, etc. Twitter is behind in getting its community to take it as a video viewing platform seriously because it only provides view count data to non-paying users, nothing more. Its paid advertisers have a fuller view on how their video content and ads is doing.

YouTube’s advantage is that it provide real-time performance metrics. “Brands are also using YouTube as a platform to test multiple videos to inform their creative and business decisions, sometimes even before they finalize their TV spots,” Stephanie Davis, Industry Director, Travel, Google.

As far as paid video metrics, YouTube gives the stand impressions, clicks and clickthrough rates on its various ad formats. Facebook provides data and visualization of how well the video is performing with audience retention graph.

Third party technology like Cinematique is by far more advanced that YouTube and Facebook when it comes to making a more interactive experience on the video. This new technology that allows any part of the video during run time to be clickable and shoppable. Features like this will help drive deeper conversions and get more insights on attribution.

“70 percent of Matador Network’s business is sponsored video,” said CEO, Ross Borden. For them analytics is hugely important and they measure their efforts by adding up all the video views from all the channels — including Matador Network and its partners’ digital properties — the content is distributed to.

For both Matador and Beautiful Destinations, YouTube is still the place to put video content because of the community and the search capability. However he mentioned, “finding videos are great on YouTube, but you have to know what you’re looking for.”

Insights and strategies

Allocate resources separately. Investing time and money in creating videos can be costly at times. Travel brands need to understand that creating an awesome video that doesn’t have a marketing plan and strong distribution channels will lessen its impact, hence making it more costly because it didn’t provide a return. Partner with agencies that understand both sides of video content marketing.

Create and test multiple versions of one video. Determine what kind of story your brand wants to tell. From there think about the shortest possible format like a 5-second snap, a 6-minute vine, a 15-second Instagram video, a minute-long video on Facebook, a three minute version on YouTube, the full version on your website. Testing multiple videos on Facebook could be detrimental, choose a time when your audience is engaged the most and try at the same time with a different format the following week.

Experiment with new technology to stay unique. There is no harm in trying. Providing a fresh visual perspective will catch the digitally weary-eyed traveler. These moments do create lasting impressions that can travel by word of mouth online with at-mentions, comments, and shares and offline via word-of-mouth in conversation. If you can’t get the device find a creator and reach out to them to learn more.

Make the video interactive to drive website visits. Guiding your audience to your brand’s website allows for more a rich experience and better view of their digital behavior. Brands need to take advantage of this owned space to provide more information about the destination, things to do, and local people to meet. Also, these clicks from the video are an indicator of interest that contributes to the return on investment.

Think about how video might change for mobile viewing. More people now spend more time on mobile than their desktops. Work with developers to customize an experience for viewing on a mobile phone, tablet and laptop/desktop. This will give viewers reasons to accessing the same content on multiple devices to unlock new experiences.

Don’t discriminate videos uploads to specific channels. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Vimeo are user-generated platforms and channels that have an active community. There is no harm in distributing the video on all these channels. After all, it is about distribution that can drive awareness and consideration. That goes without saying that video must be optimized for the platform or channel.

Endnotes and further reading