I attended TravelCom this Wednesday and Thursday in Chicago. Here are a few of my thoughts regarding the conference:
- To kick things off, Henry Harteveldt of Forrester did a great job wooing the crowd with his research, data and trend analysis. Big note - the online travel consumer is not as happy as we thought.
What I coined as the conference buzz-phrase – “contextual advertising” - was first mentioned in this session. Wikipedia defines it as – “the term applied to advertisements appearing on websites or other media, such as content displayed in mobile phones, where the advertisements are selected and served by automated systems based on the content displayed by the user.”
- Travelocity’s Michelle Peluso believes in customer service – she has taken a phone call from a customer at 3:30 am on her home phone. Impressive! She stressed the importance of service for the OTA’s and believes the call center and support lines are the foundation of loyalty for these groups.
- I couldn’t get into either of the the User Conference lunches. I was a few minutes late getting to the Yahoo sponsored session and all the seats in the room were taken. The rooms were very small and I think they only had 6 to 8 tables set up. People then lined the walls. I checked out the other session by Acxiom and it was also very crowded. Looks like these lunch and learn sessions generated some interest, maybe next year they could be a bit bigger or have additional choices.
Once those two options were exhausted, I retreated to the main luncheon hosted by IBM. They ran a short video entitled “A Day in the Life of a Traveler”. It showcased a biz-traveling, family guy utilizing every IBM e-business tool known to mankind in his planning and traveling adventure. It was wrapped into one giant process: from booking travel, to walking around the hotel web site as an avatar, to the TSA screening his name to be sure he wasn’t on the no-fly database. There was even a call center conversation that was translated from English to Chinese on the fly. I know some of this is applicable today and I loved the concept. But, I’m pretty sure we are more than just a few years away from it all working together.
BTW – the food - baked chicken, rice, and asparagus followed by a coffee tasting kind of dessert dressed with fresh berries- black, blue and rasp. Mmmm.
- The afternoon began with Jeff Boyd, CEO of Priceline, explaining some advertising models for the OTA. Good take away – can’t afford to buy an expensive network television spot during Lost in prime time? How about buying spots on ABC.com where people download the archived programs. Same audience, better price. The whole off-beat William Shatner campaign is perfect for use on the web and his persona translates well into entertaining widgets for desktops, Facebook and MySpace. Also, Jeff did drop in some "contextual advertising" references and sourced it back to Henry.
- Susan Black did a fine job moderating the session Monetizing Social Media and Consumer Generated Content. A couple of notes of interest on this one . The panel included a replacement from one of the original program speakers - the women who developed Hyatt’s Yatt’it joined the mix. (I must first apologize, I can not locate her name anywhere since she was a late addition, but her first name was Renee.) See my post from the day prior for my Yatt’it thoughts. I didn’t have the courage to question her during the session and my attempt to find her at the cocktail reception was not successful. Anyway, I got the impression they spent a few nickels on the whole site, not including all the time involved for personnel training, management, etc. Per my post, you know my take.
- Then came a big “Who knew?” for me. A travel social networking site for disabled individuals – www.disaboom.com. Apparently their network is as strong as their voice, as they review cities, hotels and restaurants, etc. that are accessible, or not so accessible. Eric Lipp stated that "85% of disabled travelers share their experiences". Very cool. He also sourced a new Chicago accessibility guide. With sites like Disaboom and other forums emerging, it will only be a matter of time before additional cities and states give more attention to this niche.
BTW – “contextual advertising” emerged once again. I think it was third time in a session today, but who’s counting.
- I thought Thursday got off to a slow start – maybe everyone had too much fun the night before in the city of Chicago. I enjoyed the third presentation/interview with Suzie Reider, Director of Advertising for YouTube. The big nugget - YouTube has just released a dashboard of analytic tools to help you measure who is watching your videos. Log in and check the tabs on your page for more details. Those guys at Google, and their tools, continue to amaze me. One other interesting tidbit on YouTube - how about using it to test some video creative? Now there is an idea.
- The conference education closed out with an interesting debate on paid search terms and affiliates. Eric Pearson from InterContential Hotel Group moderated a discussion that was focused around affiliate organization’s buying branded keywords, developing bogus landing pages, and then deceptively capturing traffic from OTA’s and hotels. It looks like there is still some work to be done in this area, but the major consensus from the panel was focused on end-user education.
- At that point, I grabbed a chicken wrap to go and headed out – just prior to Sir Richard Branson’s address. My destination was Navy Pier to visit a few old friends and clients at the Affordable Meetings Tradeshow.
Sorry, Sir. I took a lesson from Michele Peluso - loyalty before royalty in my business.