Marriott Advertising Sales Leader on Building a Travel Media Network (Don’t Call It Retail Media)

Marriott is a class of non-advertising companies that have recently launched software ad platforms.

Just don’t connect the new Marriott platform to the Retail Media Network (RMN).

“I wouldn’t put us in that category,” said Elizabeth Donovan, global director and head of advertising revenue for Marriott Media Network, as the new company is called. “We’re a travel media network and I think it’s like a publisher too.”

Marriott Media Network’s framing as a publisher, as opposed to the SaaS-based sourcing play, is an important distinction. Although the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program has member login and closed-loop attribution, which is similar to operating a retail media loyalty program, Donovan said Marriott will also focus on editorial and content solutions.

For example, Bonvoy traveler offers editorial sponsorship — a Subaru campaign, for example, built on the idea of ​​family road trips — and enables potential podcast integration and social media content creation. Eventually, Marriott Media can create custom video production campaigns for in-room TVs.

“Brands will be partnering with us to create our content in the future,” Donovan said.

However, Marriott is not a typical publisher.

Yes, Marriott Media Network uses Yahoo as an exclusive SSP for its inventory, which is not far from uncommon. However, Marriott’s offering cannot be targeted or measured in aggregate across the Yahoo world of automated open online inventory. The Yahoo ID specified on the Marriott hotel website will not sync with the Yahoo ID that is submitted to SomeOtherSite.com.

Marriott has had advertising business for nearly a decade, according to Donovan, but this is its first automated offering and the first time its inventory has been pooled and sold to agencies, rather than working directly with major brand partners, such as airlines and restaurant reservation services that Advertisements are displayed on screens in the hotel lobby.

Donovan said the company is still taking only small steps toward offering a robust end-to-end platform.

First, the Marriott Media Network links many disparate internal groups. In addition to building external sales relationships, for example, the Marriott Partnerships team identifies partners like rideshare apps and airlines where one plus one equals three opportunities to help each other grow.

But this is different from the field of media. The Bonvoy editorial team that makes personalized travel content is a different group as well.

Donovan said trial advertising campaigns on the Travel Media Network will begin this summer. But many early growth opportunities will come from within Marriott first.

Marriott is cautious about programmatic and segmentation targeting. Advertisers may want to use Marriott’s data, for example, to generate segments of high-income and luxury travelers who book luxury suites or hotels or, on the other hand, to reach people who only buy rooms at promotional discounts or at cheaper hotels. But advertisers won’t be able to do that.

To start, campaigns will be isolated by hotel brand. Sheraton, Westin and JW Marriott, all Marriott brands, can be purchased separately and anonymously. The same person who searched for rooms on multiple hotel sites will not be deleted.

Marriott Media is also not venturing into a play on the audience network. For now, at least, ads will only be shown for Marriott-owned properties, including sites, apps, WiFi login portals, and anywhere else it can fit into a standard IAB unit.

“We’re not there yet, although we’re thinking about it,” Donovan said, referring to a potential audience expansion product.

Marriott also hopes to expand into non-endemic advertiser categories. Airline reservations, flight sharing, and restaurants are obvious extensions of hotels. But what about financial services or insurance companies that want to target high-end travelers?

Not at this time, Donovan said. “We focus on resolving the nuances of travel and our consumer experience.”

CPG and grocery brands have been early adopters of new automated retailer-based platforms. Part of Donovan’s job will be to demonstrate how the travel media network fits into the brand’s media plan by following, at least to some extent, the rules of the game for those that came before. A clothing company, for example, can identify potential customers who are traveling to a ski resort, and an entertainment company can promote shows, zoos, or any fun things to do in a particular city.

But, really, don’t call the Marriott platform RMN.

“I really want to reiterate that this is not the same as the typical retail media network,” Donovan said.

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