Tourism Australia pops data cherry with Virgin Australia

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 28 March 2016
Tourism Australia campaign: “A place you feel”.

Tourism Australia is making leaps and bounds in the latest stage in its digital transformation as the government agency reveals a data swap deal with Virgin Australia.

Speaking to AdNews at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas, head of digital at Tourism Australia (TA) John Mackenney, said after moving from using expensive legacy systems to the Adobe Marketing Cloud, as it makes strides to modernise its marketing department, the next step is to get more granular and personlised with its ad targeting.

While the business has 22 airline partners, it has just recently finished its first data sharing deal with Virgin Australia. The agreement sees both work together to share data to better target consumers, particularly out of the US.

“In layman’s terms it is tracking information that’s happening on and then we are also tracking those people as they go across onto the Virgin site – and then sharing that interaction,” Mackenney says.

Mackenney explains that such data tie-ups, which sounds similar to a type of private co-op, something Adobe recently touted it wanted to get a handle on, is where he sees the future for TA.

“We’ve done one deal so far but our longer term data vision would be to work out ways we can share data with more partners to better sell Australia,” Mackenney adds.

As an example, Mackenney says when people have looked at Sydney on the TA website, Virgin Australia can serve them an offer about Sydney -  not Melbourne -  and they will pass back information on whether people have booked.

He added this new insight means it isn’t “wasting taxpayers’ dollars” by trying to retarget someone who has already booked a flight. It means TA can personalise its website and customer experiences – serving up only relevant content/ads. 

“It’s early days on the data sharing for us but we think we are pretty advanced,” he says.

Tech dead

Mackenney says the company, which sees 15 million unique visitors a year, considers itself to be very progressive in relation to its martech stack – a hot topic among marketers globally.

“Previously we had a whole raft of quite expensive legacy technology in place and different tech too across our sites. At one point we had up to 32 microsites so our message was fragmented,” he says.

“We had quite a large infrastructure burden – I suppose we were tech dead. What Adobe allowed us to do was to bring us onto a modern platform and it also helped us deal with getting rid of the legacy systems and technology.”

He says having such work place efficiencies in place, and a proper digital asset management system now in order, sees TA sit as a modern marketing organisation – leaving behind hard drives of days gone by, in favour of automation.

On Australia Day this year TA launched its most “comprehensive” campaign to date, promoting Australia's aquatic experiences with a virtual reality and 360 mobile immersive display. The launch was one of the biggest executions from Tourism Australia since Lisa Ronson took up the CMO role last year.

Mackenney says there was a big cost benefit to upping digital and marketing transformation journey, with the business saving more than $700,000 in the first year, as it was no longer using outdated hardware and running many microsites. He adds that the consumer benefit was that it wasn’t fragmenting its message across multiple microsites.

He said such digital transformation allowed TA to showcase the immersive 360 video on its website which has since had “phenomenal” engagement results – up 65%. It has also driven an extra 77% in leads off to the Australia industry since it launched the campaign in January.

Coupled with this it also built an integration tool with Adobe and LiveFyre to bring its millions of Facebook (6.8m) and Instagram (2.1m) followers’ content into the web environment.

He said the previous fragmented way of doing things only served to deliver a disjointed message to customers and it knew it had to advance in the modern marketing era.

The next step

“It’s still pretty early for us -  digital transformation journeys are a little bit longer than 18 months, but our next couple of years definitely look fuller than our first couple years,” Mackenney says.

“To try to get the attention of the consumer these days, particularly in travel, you can’t give them the same message. We must get down to more personalised messaging so a big part of what we will be focusing on is how can we personalise the message based on what we know about the consumer.

“If we know they love surfing, lets tell them about the best five places in Australia. Or if they want to pat a kangaroo then we’ll tell them how to pat a kangaroo – it’s that concept.”

In addition to the more frequent personalised messages, he says mobile is also a big area of focus for the business.

Mackenney also stressed that marketers sitting around and not doing anything isn’t an option anymore, and that a greater benefit to consumers is for businesses to be constantly updating and improving their websites.

TA has a specific team set up to advance things every few weeks to make sure it is constantly evolving and adapting to the changing landscape.           

“The days of running a project and then delivering a new website in 12 months, in our mind, is over. What we have moved to is an agile way of working where we are effectively releasing a new function on our website every three weeks.”

Want more from the summit? Check out these related stories:

McDonald’s CMO: "It’s about step change transformation at the core"

Mattel COO – 'we lost our way'

Goosebumps and smiles – a new marketing wave is breaking

Adobe tackles walled gardens, and cross-platform measurement

Adobe CMO quizzes Clooney on Twitter, TV and storytelling

AdNews traveled to the Adobe Summit as a guest of Adobe.


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