Sojern’s Andres Franklin on Programmatic and the Uniqueness of the Travel Industry

Real-time marketing and Big Data have opened big opportunities for marketers when it comes to hyper-targeting their prospects. This is particularly true of the heavily-digitized travel marketing sector (example: Best Western CMO Dorothy Dowling recently told us 88% of Best Western's hotel bookings are done online). Sojern, a performance marketing platform for travel brands, has specialized in delivering that particular message that each unique user is looking for before traveling. We asked Andrés Franklin, commercial director for Latin America at Sojern, to spell it all out for us.

Travel is complicated. And people, when they travel, behave differently than they usually do. To any advertiser trying to connect a product or service with targeted audiences, a traveler is different than any other target.

Andrés Franklin, commercial director for Latin America at andre franklinSojern, says it best: "Travel is unique because I am equally as likely to buy a shirt today as next week: all it takes is a bit of tomato sauce, and there you go. While many of us are travelers, we are not in the market to purchase travel at all times." It's not enough for a five-star hotel chain or luxury cruise line to simply target people who travel. What's the point in investing money in a campaign, only to reach backpackers that can't afford your hotel rooms? "I don't want to speak to the five-star hotel's target audience the same way I do to people traveling by discount fares and trains," Franklin adds. But it's easier said than done.

Sojern is a platform that helps advertisers connect with travelers in more meaningful and engaging ways through connecting frequent travelers with branding efforts when they are likely to buy. Let's assume the client is a large hotel in Cancun. The company's job is to connect its client, let's say a hotel in Cancun, with the people that have just bought tickets to Cancun, and are traveling in seven days, since 70-90% of bookings occur within two weeks of buying a ticket.
Latin America has very fragmented hotel markets.

To Franklin, it's all about finding ways to provide very tailored and ROI-effective solutions for advertisers in the tourism industry. "Hotels want to be right there with a compelling message that is relevant to that traveler, for his or her particular destination, with an offer for specific dates or seasons," Franklin says. "So we have data partnerships with data suppliers like airlines and OTAs, and are using a programmatic, data-driven media buying platform for the traveler these clients want to target.  We can buy media that is highly targeted and deliver very customized messages to individual users."

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Partnership with Travelclick

16844832212_3f37b0babc_z (1)Sojern just partnered with TravelClick to share targeting and data-driven advertising resources and offer an extensive and complete media solution. Of the partnership with Travelclick, a global provider of data, ecommerce and internet solutions to the hospitality industry, Franklin says: "What we are trying to accomplish is marry those two things. What's in it for both is ability to impact more properties and bringing this sophisticated media solution to hundreds of properties across Latin America, the Americas and the world."

As the commercial director for Latin America, Franklin tracks the specificities of this unique region. Naming a few of its particular features, he says that comparing Brazil and Mexico illustrates the difficulty associated with reaching fragmented hotel markets. In Mexico, for example, the top 10 hotel chains have an average of 30 properties in the country. Intercontinental has over 100. But in Brazil, the first two or three on the list of biggest hotel chains have between 50 to 100 properties but and the 4th largest may have five. Argentina, Chile and many other countries in Latin America are similar in that respect.

These smaller hotels can see impressive ROI, but only through reduced marketing and distribution costs. Markets like this, that demonstrate so much longtail, are challenging, as it typically takes "a lot more time to get to the same volume of people." Having aggregated its technology, Sojern is particularly useful in facing this industry challenge.

Flexible Models

But Sojern has been sure to develop tools for all types of campaigns and clients: "The way we've built our business is to have highly-flexible commercial models where we can work in a number of different ways with advertising. When it comes to the competition we are all going after the same pool of money, and so where there's a marketing or distribution budget, thats all the budget there is," Franklin says.
5819756791_89b1c4f580_z (1)Speaking of clients, do clients in Latin America (or anywhere) undstand the complicated technology that is now implemented in programmatic buying? "Entering certain parts of the world has been a challenge," Franklin admits, and he joined Sojern two years ago, when there were no programmatic, data-driven models for determing the best potential target out of a thousand people - and what message will work best. Franklin explains: "That first year was a lot of education. But two years down the road it's a different story: Rarely do I speak to clients that don't understand the value proposition we offer."
So what should Sojern expect from this rapidly-changing industry? Franklin believes that:
1) The availability of inventory will increase - "So many companies like Clarin and Televisa are still selling good chunk of their inventory the old- fashioned way, with a salesperson that makes the rounds and knocks on doors. Theyre protecting an asset because they feel that once they make their inventory available to ad exchanges, they lose control over what people will be willing to pay for it. So theyre spending money  to create premium content, but theyre only charging what the market would pay for any ad. But publishers will realize that through the lower cost associated with selling through programmatic buying, they will sell media for less but make a better margin."
 2) The adoption and understanding of programmatic buying will expand. "There's still a lot of first-level understanding of programmatic and data-driven advertising, but not enough to differentiate in terms of why one platform could do it better than another. So I still have conversations. There will be advertisers that dig deeper and do own research, but the trend is that initially they will hear out what the agency has to say, it will sound awesome, and that's their first foray into programmatic."
Ambitious and creative minds in advertising have a fascinating year ahead of them in 2016, and no shortage of tools to develop new solutions for publishers.

Get ready for #Portada16 on Sept. 14 and 15 in New York City! The Hispanic Sports Marketing Forum on September 14, and the 10th Annual Hispanic Advertising and Media Conference on September 15 will provide you with the best content and unparalleled networking opportunities to succeed in Multicultural America.


Gretchen Gardner @gardnergretchen

Gretchen is a communications specialist and owner of GMG Strategic Communications. She currently lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she works with Argentine and international ventures on shaping their content, branding and marketing strategies to position them for success in global markets. She is also a lover of all things information and has worked consistently in journalism since college, most recently as a writer at Portada and as the deputy editor of The Bubble, the first informal, English-language news portal in Buenos Aires. She hails from Washington, D.C. and has a bachelor's degree in history and Hispanic studies from Hamilton College as well as a master's in international relations from the Argentine university Universidad Torcuato Di Tella.
Gretchen is a communications specialist and owner of GMG Strategic Communications. She currently lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she works with Argentine and international ventures on shaping their content, branding and marketing strategies to position them for success in global markets. She is also a lover of all things information and has worked consistently in journalism since college, most recently as a writer at Portada and as the deputy editor of The Bubble, the first informal, English-language news portal in Buenos Aires. She hails from Washington, D.C. and has a bachelor's degree in history and Hispanic studies from Hamilton College as well as a master's in international relations from the Argentine university Universidad Torcuato Di Tella.

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