Hotels.com's Vic Walia on Making Augmented Reality Campaigns Both Entertaining and Strategic
I guess it depends on your definition of "campaign." I actually like the word campaign, because what this isn't is a one-off idea. It's not just something that lives out there on its own and kind of fizzles away. It's part of a larger campaign, which is selling the idea of Hotels.com as a smarter way to book. We've taken an award-winning TV idea—with this character whose name is SMART who proves why Hotels.com is the smart way to book—and we've brought it into the digital world. But in the digital world, you have a longer time to experience the character SMART, to understand all the reasons why Hotels.com is a smarter way to book because through his script, through his dialogue, through his tour guide role, he explains ... all the features and benefits that we have.
TM: How long did it take to pull this effort together?
VW: Well, we had this idea back in the fall of '09, and through working with our ad agency Y&R Chicago and a third party who helped build this out, it's taken five, six months to pull this together. [And that] includes building the site as well as developing the PR plan and the print plan, which are the two marketing levers we're using to get consumers to the site. So we have a print campaign that went national [on May 5] in Wired and MacWorld, so we have some techie trade as well as the consumer travel trade, like USA Today and American Way magazine.
TM: How are you measuring audience response?
VW: We're looking at some of the basic things, like clickthroughs to the site, time spent on site and pass-along. But within those three things, one of the most important for me is the second, which is time spent on site. If you think about it, with a 30-second ad, you don't do any of those things: You don't pass along to a friend, you spend very little time with the brand. Whereas when you come to VirtualVacay.com, you're spending 10, 20 minutes on the site, exploring different cities, voting, and creating postcards and sending those to your friends. To me, that's a deep engagement with the brand—ad space I couldn't afford if I wanted to buy that type of ad time on broadcast TV.