Airlines Can Now Better Target Travelers With Ads on Facebook and Instagram

The emphasis will be on the mobile experience

Facebook users will be served travel ads after searching for flights.
Getty Images

Facebook is introducing additional ways for airlines to target summer travelers across Facebook, Instagram and Facebook’s Audience Network.

Today, the social network announced it’s rolling out dynamic ads for flights. The updates—which arrive just as the travel season gets underway for the summer—will let marketers target a person across devices based on route, schedule and price (for example, if a consumer searches for flights to California over Memorial Day, an airline could retarget the person with an ad for that flight). And it’s likely no surprise to hear it’s happening increasingly on mobile. According to new research from Facebook IQ, 93 percent of conversations happening on mobile devices last summer.

Christine Warner, Facebook’s head of industry for travel in the U.S., said a study conducted last year with GfK found that 85 percent of travel was planned on mobile devices, with 50 percent of people using mobile devices when first researching a trip.

“With the shift to mobile, we’re seeing that travelers are spending more time from the moment of inspiration to booking than ever,” she said. “And that has really introduced two challenges that makes it more challenging for travel advertisers to connect with a traveler from the moment that they’re thinking they’re going on a trip to the moment that that they book it.”

Dynamic travel ads aren’t altogether new. Last summer, the company launched them for the hotel industry, with some seeing promising results. For example, Melia Hotels International used dynamic ads to drive a return nearly seven times its investment. Delta and Cathay Pacific have been testing airline ads in beta, with Cathay reporting a booking volume that’s up 16 times what it was with previous campaigns.

Facebook isn’t the only company allowing for better targeting for flights. Last summer, Google launched its own Smart Filters for airline ads, along with a way for users to set up alerts for flights based on price.

DigitasLBi, is one of the agencies that’s been testing the Facebook ads in beta. Shreya Kushari, svp of search marketing and other paid marketing at the agency, said she’s seen strong ROI early on. She said Facebook seems to have learned from Google’s tactics.

“It is so high-touch in the sense that when you know you’re going to travel, you’re going to buy a ticket,” she said. “It’s not like shoes where you can vacillate and then finally buy a pair. It’s a great vertical to try and experiment with ads.”