With media network, Marriott is allowing brands to book ad space

It's a first for the hospitality industry, giving advertisers a new way to reach travelers.

With media network, Marriott is allowing brands to book ad space

As summer arrives, travel appears poised to bounce back in a big way. While vacationers make their plans and get their packing lists together, Marriott has a new way for brands to reach travelers during their journey.

In a first for the hospitality industry, the hotel brand is partnering with Yahoo to launch the Marriott Media Network. This will allow advertisers to reach brands across Marriott’s digital and physical properties.

How will it work?

  • Whole journey: Marriott will offer curated content experiences where brands can showcase products and services to travelers during a purchase, pre-arrival and during their stay. When the network is fully-deployed, Marriott will be offering inventory across display, mobile, video, email and digital out-of-home (meaning, in-room television and digital screens). Marriott plans to use anonymized data from bookings and searches on its digital channels to target ads, and will pilot this month with advertisers, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • What’s the reach? Initially it will be in pilot mode, available in the U.S. and Canada. Eventually, Marriott has plans to expand it to travelers globally to encompass more than 164 million members in Marriott Bonvoy, the company's rewards program. In all, Marriott says it has 8,000 properties under 30 brands spanning 139 countries.
  • Full stack: The partnership with Yahoo spans supply and demand side. Yahoo’s supply side platform is serving as the access points for advertisers seeking to purchase inventory. In turn, the Yahoo ad sales team will lead demand generation and sales across Marriott paid media and the Marriott Media Network, using Yahoo’s demand side platform.

Why does it matter?

It’s a sign of how digital advertising is evolving. Flush with third-party data, advertising technology and lots of users, platforms like Facebook have been the go-to option for brands seeking to reach customers over the last decade. But with rising customer acquisition costs, privacy changes by Apple and the forecast demise of the third-party cookie, brands are seeking new avenues to reach consumers.

This is leading to new advertising solutions beyond social platforms. Among the most popular are in-house media networks created by consumer marketplaces. Under this model, a marketplace uses customer data to target ads that are displayed within the marketplace itself. After the success of these models from Amazon, Walmart and Kroger, retailers like Nordstrom and Michaels launched their own media networks in the first quarter of this year.

The Marriott Media Network is bringing this concept to travel, where large audiences visit platforms to book and manage trips. It allows Marriott to offer advertisers new ways to reach travelers – an audience that is often in discovery mode with discretionary funds available. Going beyond advertising future bookings, a media network can allow advertising for products that travelers may be interested in, such as personal care items, weather-specific clothing or experiences in the locale they are visiting. As Marriott put it, “Marriott's audience has intent, and travelers will be in the right mindset when receiving these offerings.”

In turn, the ability to leverage anonymized data that will help to curate the content will allow a more focused experience for travelers, Marriott says.

Equally, it's notable that Marriott's rewards program is involved. In this new wave of digital advertising, first-party data, or data collected directly from customers, is key. Loyalty programs, such as rewards programs, are key to gathering this type of data.

From airlines to hotels, rewards programs have long been a mainstay of the travel industry. The media network points to how they can play a role in powering digital experiences, as well. Here's a quick breakdown:

  • Marriott recently redesigned its Bonvoy app. In the first quarter, downloads rose 70% over the first quarter of 2019, Skift reported.
  • Bonvoy also helps Marriott go directly to travelers when they book. In the first quarter, the company reported an increase in direct digital bookings of 14% over the first quarter of 2019.
  • Bonvoy helps Marriott offer links to services beyond its hotels. Even before the network, Marriott had a deal with Uber that allowed customers to earn points.

Linking a media network with a rewards program could allow Marriott to add content alongside the perks Bonvoy offers. In the future, it's not hard to imaging them being linked together. Meanwhile, the rewards program is likely providing data that powers the curation of content.

With the resumption of activities like travel after the pre-pandemic lull, there will be lots of focus on whether business is returning to pre-pandemic levels. But it's important to remember that these in-person activities are also returning to a world that is more comfortable in digital modes, and one where new business opportunities exist within that digital ecosystem. Look for the companies that power these experiences to behave more like tech platforms, as well.

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