How Data and Personalization Drove Stopover Visits to Toronto

As a culturally rich city with robust arts, shopping, fashion, sports, and food scenes, Toronto is often touted as “Canada’s Downtown.” But it’s also so much more, serving as a gateway to diverse overseas locations through more than 200 connections with Air Canada, the country’s largest airline. To move beyond its role as a connector and to showcase the unique experiences offered in this dynamic destination, “#TorontoStopover” was born.

Tourism Toronto, the destination marketing organization for Toronto, collaborated with us, as well as Air Canada, the exclusive transit partner for the campaign, with the goal of positioning Toronto as a desirable stopover destination. Our goal: establish Toronto as a natural connection point during long‐distance trips for American and British travelers going to or from Asia or the U.S. and ultimately increase market share and drive traveler demand.

Here’s how we all came together to achieve the shared goal of engaging and inspiring travelers in new and exciting ways, while also driving tourism for Toronto.

To engage your audience, you must know your audience

Data‐driven decision‐making is a norm for many successful organizations around the world. And it’s especially important to our team. When working with destination marketing organizations and other travel partners, we always strive to find the right balance of data and creativity that will not only capture, inspire and engage travelers, but also drive demand and deliver impactful, measurable results.

Data allows us to better understand traveler behavior and competitive differentiators, providing actionable insights for targeting and campaign creative. For us, this means analyzing first‐party data to understand how our audience travels and shops for travel and coupling those insights with custom research to further understand the how and why of their travel decisions.

For #TorontoStopover, through our first-party data, we identified the top Asia destinations for American travelers and the top U.S. destinations for British travelers, cross-referencing them with Air Canada flight paths. Through sophisticated, real‐time targeting, dynamic ads were used to address the right customer with the right message during the flight search process to create a personalized experience that featured a free stopover in Toronto.

Also, our research showed that American and British travelers place more importance on deals and special offers than other travelers and are most likely to be influenced by advertising with appealing deals. Drawing from these insights, the campaign promoted Toronto as a stopover destination to travelers at no additional charge, exclusively with Air Canada, and provided potential travelers with access to Air Canada’s Travel Smart benefits.

We also worked with the Expedia Group market management team in Toronto to include promotional rates and discounts from select hotels as part of the campaign experience.

Personalized experiences drive engagement

Consumers want to find their own inspiration across platforms and resources they trust, and it’s our role as marketers to give them a more authentic voice throughout the shopping journey, allowing them to make personalized decisions based on their preferences, attitudes and more. The #TorontoStopover campaign came to life through an interactive microsite, showcasing local Toronto offerings through vibrant videos, insider travel tips, transportation information, nearby hotel options, and neighborhood guides.

We drove visitors to the interactive microsite using, among other products, video ads. 

To encourage destination exploration and ensure a personalized experience for each user, we developed Trip Discovery, an interactive landing page solution that provided potential travelers with targeted recommendations based on their interests and travel habits.

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Enlisting authentic influencers

Unsurprisingly, social media is influential, especially for younger generations. But, when it comes to social influencers, it isn’t always about getting the flashiest name or biggest celebrity. Influencers should extend and support the campaign message through natural and authentic ways that align with your brand and will resonate with your audience.

To showcase the diverse culture of the city, the team partnered with local, or “Torontonian,” influencers, who highlighted the destination in different ways based on their own interests. People were able to explore the destination through the lens of “The Foodie,” “The Trendsetter,” and “The Action Seeker,” discovering the different food, shopping, and activities in Toronto.

Results that drive business impact

During the campaign period, Air Canada experienced a nearly 70% YOY increase in demand with a stopover in Toronto. The campaign also drove a return on ad spend (ROAS) of nearly 13:1, and “Toronto Stopover” saw a 337% increased growth in search from the start of the campaign in September 2018 to September 2019, proving the campaign’s impact on encouraging destination exploration and driving stopover demand.

By combining an interactive digital experience with inspiring content with our unique targeting capabilities, the “#TorontoStopover” campaign successfully drove traveler inspiration and repositioned Toronto as an ideal stopover destination.

Learn more about how you can inspire and engage travelers with our in-house creative agency, Creative Partnerships.

This article originally appeared in PhocusWire in late September 2019.