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Takeaways for DMOs in light of Facebook’s Worst Day on Wall Street

By Zeek Coleman, Head of Marketing – Tourism & Hospitality at Adara, Leroy Bridges, Senior Industry Specialist – Tourism at Adara and Jeremy Harvey, Senior Industry Specialist – Tourism at Adara


What happened?

Facebook had its worst day a few weeks back with a valuation drop by nearly $250bn (more than 25%) and the news has shaken Wall Street and investment portfolios all over the world. But, just like some of the other financial events that big corporations have witnessed over the two decades, the signs were all there – in 2020, they had to take down or change nearly 40% of their targeting options, foreshadowing the start of shaky ad revenue.

In April 2021, Apple disabled the IDFA (The Identifier for Advertisers) making it difficult to target Apple users (nearly 47% of the population as of March 2021 in the U.S.). Furthermore, ‘supply chain disruptions’ causing advertisers to spend less, competition from TikTok and fewer daily U.S. users on its flagship platform Meta aren’t making the way forward any easier. Facebook’s problems are unlikely to be resolved soon and unfortunately, they have big implications for Destinations and DMOs.  

Why should DMO’s care?

Since 2020, DMOs have been playing catch up not only because of the pandemic, but also because of the technological disruption taking place in data privacy and advertising standards. Apple’s changes, which also led to the loss of unconsented location data, have made destination advertising tougher than ever. To indicate the magnitude of impact on the industry, just think of the shock to taxi drivers globally when Uber entered the market. Or closer to home, think about how travel agents became nearly obsolete in big cities and metros.

It may not seem like it now, but the changes in advertising and targeting practice, forcefully spearheaded by Google and Apple, have far-reaching implications that are just around the corner. DMOs will not be able to target users the same as before, and the significant reduction in the volume of location data means they won’t be able to use existing tools to identify, track and measure if those visitors show up at their destination. It also impacts a destination’s ability to retarget users. The world turned upside down.

The tourism industry and DMOs are at a crossroads – Will you lean into the change urgently and prosper, or choose inaction, risking your future? 

What can DMOs do to diminish the impact of this?

The talk of technological disruption and search for alternate data options may make it seem like you’re in a marathon, one that you’re running alone and falling behind on. That’s not true. We’d rather have you think of it as a relay race, where you’re not running alone, but instead falling back on the support of your partners to get to the finish line. You can always avoid falling behind, by making a few simple changes now. Here are some key considerations for DMOs:

1. Use Quality Audience Data for your Campaigns:
Facebook has become the face of these advertising and targeting challenges, but there are a lot of other advertisers who have also been negatively impacted and are not talking about it. The real imperative for DMOs (whether on Facebook or elsewhere) is to make sure they’re leveraging the right audience data. If you haven’t already, start working with your advertising partners to find other reliable sources of ethical and consented data.

2. Question your social media budget:
Let’s be honest for a minute. We’ve come a long way. We went from laughing at the idea of social media marketing (2010) to hiring teams of social media and content-focused staff. Gone are the days of “free likes” on Facebook. Since 2015, visibility on social has been pay-to-play. Now, no DMO questions the necessity of having a presence on Facebook and spending mammoth funds to market there. However, with Apple’s recent changes and Facebook’s difficulty retargeting users via mobile data, DMOs need to revisit assumptions about the quality of their Facebook campaigns. Adara is not the only alternative, but one of the better ways to
reach relevant travelers before they make travel decisions.

3. Be laser-focused on measurement, which Facebook significantly limits:
Even if DMOs today do everything in their capacity to ensure ROI from advertising, Facebook is not transparent enough to allow for complete attribution and tracking, making it harder to be accountable for that spend. It’s never been more important to have measurement and ROI for campaigns (while spending government funds). Elected officials will look to siphon any of your inefficient marketing funds to avoid raising taxes on their constituents. There’s nothing better than having campaign wrap reports that tie your marketing to relevant KPIs. Our customers not only defend their funding, but use our data to secure more. Some have even gotten raises!

By taking action based on these considerations, Facebook’s worst day could be the start of your destinations’ best.

The Urgent Way Forward

The current scale and performance of Facebook advertising may never recover to its previous glory days and that is the hard truth. But that doesn’t necessarily have to create bottlenecks for DMOs.

  1. Talk with agency partners about future-proofing their data solutions.
  2. Run advertising campaigns leveraging ethical data.
  3. Leverage ROI reports that can defend your funding and help you get a raise.

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