lowcostholidays: building brand substance for the first time with TV

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  • lowcostholidays were struggling with brand awareness  
  • They used TV for the first time to generate brand fame with a series of engaging ads that juxtaposed the low cost adjective with high production values
  • The campaign generated a 54% increase in sales

Challenge

Iowcostholidays (LCH), as the name suggests, is a low cost, online provider of flights, hotels and holidays.  It has been operating in the UK since 2004 and is used by around two million holiday-makers a year.  It had built its business primarily through the use of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising but, in common with many ecommerce businesses, had seen the cost-effectiveness of this approach decline in recent years.  It needed a change of direction.

The Solution

The fundamental factors that determine the success or failure of any brand have not changed with the arrival of online media.  Brands need a degree of fame: they cannot compete simply through the scale of their PPC budgets.  

Despite operating in the UK market for 10 years and spending millions of pounds on highly targeted digital advertising, the vast majority of the UK public had never heard of lowcostholidays.  Working with their agencies, (BETA) and Havas, they were encouraged to invest for the first time in television advertising.  They felt that this would not only increase brand saliency and as a direct result, increase the number of direct visitors to the LCH website, but also, by generating more branded searches, it would reduce its PPC rates.  

In addition, they saw an opportunity for LCH to take advantage of the emergence of smart, price-savvy holiday buying as mainstream consumer behaviour. Everyone now wants a good holiday deal, whether they are booking a last-minute bargain break or five-star luxury.  This meant that the LCH brand, as expressed through all of its external communications, could appeal to a broad cross section of the public (using mass media), not simply those on a tight budget.

They believed that the ‘low cost’ adjective in the company’s name gave it freedom to push the brand into more premium and aspirational spaces. The name says explicitly that the company delivers great value.  This meant that other elements of the communication could emphasise the quality of what is on offer, which is why they decided to go for high production values, albeit on a budget.  They also liked the creative juxtaposition of ‘low cost’ with high production values.  Consumers are more used to associating ‘low cost’ or budget propositions with cheap, low-end production values.   They believed that the juxtaposition of the company name with beautifully shot imagery would be far more arresting and engaging than a typical commercial for a budget travel operator. 

lowcostholidays’ ambition is to be perceived as the world’s smartest holiday company.  Their ad agency (BETA) suggested that spending a large amount of money on a typically exotic and expensive location shoot wasn’t a particularly smart approach.  This was partly because it felt profligate (for a smart, low cost operator) but also because it would limit their ability to showcase the full range of destinations available on the lowcostholidays website.  Instead they sourced high quality library film footage and invested the bulk of the creative budget on smart post production and a sophisticated TV voice-over.  This highly cost-effective and smart approach enabled them to achieve high production values across multiple creative executions - featuring a wide variety of destinations and holiday types - across multiple channels (television, digital OOH, press and online) in four countries.  It also facilitated a flexible, fast-turnaround production process, allowing them to produce new creative executions within a matter of days to support short-term commercial priorities.

Plan

The media strategy focused on moments of maximum demand.  This meant concentrating investment on the key holiday-buying period - from the traditional launch of the holiday season on Boxing Day until the end of April – and the days of the week in which people tend to research and purchase holidays (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).  This focusing of investment and the use of a cost effective 20 second spot-length enabled LCH to maximise its level of ratings during the critical sales period.  In total around 1,000 TVRs were targeted at an ABC1 adult audience. 

During the first phase of the campaign, the 20-second spots - featuring a range of vignettes promoting the smart choice involved in buying from lowcostholidays - were accompanied by 10-second ads featuring harder-hitting sales messages, such as ‘deposits from only £25’ and ‘save up to £150 per person.’  This combination of brand and sales messages – which ran as ‘top and tail’ spots in a single ad break - was designed to balance the need to deliver brand fame with the need to drive traffic to LCH website.  The channel mix of ITV, Channel 4, Sky multichannel, 5 and video on demand reflected the broad demographic target that, in this era of smart shopping, would be predisposed to the LCH proposition.  

The television campaign was supported by video-on-demand, digital out-of-home, an advertising and advertorial campaign in Metro and the full suite of online executions.

Results

The results generated by the campaign since it was launched during the winter of 2013/14 have more than vindicated the change in direction.  

A stronger, more salient lowcostholidays brand – spontaneous brand awareness almost doubled during the campaign – generated a 54% increase in sales.  This was primarily driven by a 30% increase in the volume of direct traffic, sales calls and branded searches.  This led to a 50% reduction in PPC rates and, as a consequence, the cost of acquiring new customers (a critical metric for all ecommerce businesses) reduced by 42%.  Sales of long-haul and five star holidays were particularly strong – long-haul sales increased by 98% year-on-year - endorsing the belief that everyone is now in the market for a smart, low cost deal.

We were extremely gratified by the impact Beta’s campaign had when it was broadcast. It amply demonstrated the continuing power of TV to build brands, especially for online businesses like ours. It’s fair to say fame and fortune was the goal and our first year of TV advertising has certainly put us on the right track.

Alex Gisbert , CMO, lowcostholidays

Databank

Sector: Travel

Brand: lowcostholidays.com

Campaign objectives: To increase sales (volume and value) and to reduce cost per acquisition

Target Audience:  Adults 20-40 (likely to be in the market for a holiday abroad)

Budget: £2.5m

Campaign Dates: The campaign ran from 26th December 2013 until 28th April 2014 using a day of week strategy

TV Usage: 20 second spots + 10 second spots 

Creative Agency: (BETA)

Media Agency:  Havas

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