Karl Heasman, media director at Acentic Media
Karl Heasman, media director at Acentic Media
A view from Karl Heasman

Think BR: Dial room service to reach business travellers

The business traveller is a highly valued audience for many large advertisers, writes Karl Heasman, media director at Acentic Media.

Finally, it seems that we have found the one set of consumers who are expected to spend more money this year.  

According to digital media company Captivate Network, business travel amongst affluent senior executives is anticipated to be up 27% this year compared to 2010. This suggests a boom time for upmarket hotel chains, car rental companies and airlines for whom this high spending group is hugely important.

However, it isn’t just good news for travel brands. Business travellers have long been sought after by a number of other industry sectors including luxury goods, finance, automotive, drinks and technology.

With many brands appearing increasingly unsure of how to best spend their marketing budgets during such uncertain times, it seems that this is one audience sector worth investing in.

Business travellers have never been easy to reach cost effectively, as they are typically light consumers of traditional media. While outdoor, and particularly digital out of home (DOOH), is being seen as an increasingly valuable tool for targeting them, this often only provides fleeting glimpses of brand messages at strategic places during the business traveller’s working day – be they in the taxi, at the airport or at the station.

The trouble is, business travellers may be money-rich, but they are time-poor. While they race from one meeting to the next, and cram phone calls and planning into any down-time, it’s difficult for brands to stand out and create quality engagement.  

As with any marketing issue, the key to success is to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. As you imagine the stress and time constraints of the business traveller during their working day, tapping on their metaphorical shoulders and asking them to give you headspace amongst everything else seems to be a big ask. 

There is, though, one gap in the business traveller’s day that is yet to be fully plugged – when they’re safely ensconced in their hotel room. At last, here is a time when business travellers can relax, kick off their shoes and think beyond their objectives for the day.  

What is interesting about this environment is that business travellers often watch far more TV in their hotel room than at home. According to Nielsen’s On Location Media Survey (July 2009) hotel guests typically watch 3+ hours of TV per day during their stay.  

An independent study* found that guests also watch more TV commercials in their hotel room compared to home – unsurprising given that 65% of both business and leisure respondents use their DVR at home to fast forward through commercials. In addition, the study found that guests are less likely to multitask while watching hotel TV than at home.

All of which suggests that the calm, uncluttered environment of the hotel room, offering a long dwell time and a captive audience, makes for a more receptive consumer. This is why hotel TV is emerging as an important and growing media platform for those wishing to reach business travellers.

In the UK and internationally hotel TV offers brands the opportunity to spend quality time with literally millions of engaged business travellers.

Typically there are options to sponsor various pages on the hotel TV set, such as the welcome page that is seen by every guest, through to sponsorship of a variety of channels and even the opportunity for an advertiser to have their own dedicated content.

Hotel TV offers advertisers not only the chance to reach a wealthy consumer group, but also the opportunity to segment and target messages according to a variety of criteria, such as hotel brand and star rating, by city, business or leisure hotel, by country and even time of day.  Also, hotel TV media networks offer campaign reporting to monitor impressions and track return on investment for brands and the ability to test campaigns in a controlled environment.

Talking to media planners, it’s clear that the elusive business traveller is a quality audience that is high on the agenda for many large advertisers, especially as the Olympic Games is likely to bring an influx of senior business executives and sponsors into the country.  

However, agencies are conscious that the sheer volume of advertising noise that is already starting to build up around the event could make it difficult to gain cut through. Perhaps reaching them when the suits are off and the fluffy white dressing gowns are on could be the answer they’re looking for.

Karl Heasman, media director at Acentic Media