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By Cyndy Murrieta, VP, Integrated Media
Cyndy Murrieta, VP, Integrated Media
Cyndy Murrieta VP, Integrated Media

The fast evolution of digital advertising and the multitudes of ways to approach strategic targeting has infused great enthusiasm into our industry. We look at all our new options with excitement: we can target based on past spending! We can target based on device movement! We’ll be fine in a cookie-less environment; we can focus on first party, native content and contextual targeting!

In all this enthusiasm about carving out the right audiences, we have often ignored what is, from my perspective, one of the smartest and perhaps most underutilized strategies: targeting mood and mindset.

For travel and tourism clients, we are selling dreams, joys, aspirations. Travel is key to who we are as humans; it expands our perspective, offers the opportunity to experience new cultures and meet diverse people, ultimately fostering a greater understanding of our country, our world, ourselves. 

We’re not selling a product for our pantries or a new techy device or widget for our home. We are selling an experience, a future memory. So while our target audience is still as important as ever, we should be putting more thought into when the audience is receiving our messages.  

We know from research that reaching people in a good mood boosts noticeability, but it also increases the chance that people will like our message – and believe it. We want to avoid any times when people are stressed, unhappy, or feeling negative about life.

A professor at the University of Amsterdam named Fred Bonner once tested the ad recall of 1,287 participants after looking through a newspaper. He then asked questions to determine their mood. When he looked at the data split by the participants’ mood, he found that those who were happy and relaxed noticed 52% and 54%, respectively, of ads. Those who were unhappy or stressed saw only 36%.

Another research study showed people an ad and asked them to indicate how much they liked it, along with their mood on a scale of 1-10. When people were happy, they were found as 62% more likely to like the ad.

We all know from our own experience that our mood drives our perceptions. We don’t ask our partner or our coworkers for a favor or to take action on something when we can see they are in a bad mood, right? So why not ask consumers for action when they are in the best possible mindsets? 

As strategic stewards of our clients’ marketing dollars, we carefully guard the placement of paid media messaging—ensuring it is a positive, non-polarizing,and appealing environment, as key to creating affinity between the audience and the destination.

What does this mean in practice?  We have long held the point of view that we won’t advertise in polarizing news environments. Also stressful? Airports. News-talk radio. Gritty crime shows. Busy online environments. This is not to say that those things aren’t great for many advertisers. But aspirational travel? Probably not.

Other research from ITV in 2020 found that viewers felt 40% more positive about brands advertising in feel-good TV programming. This halo effect can also be achieved through placements in NPR or PBS, as there is a long-established trust between the listeners and viewers of this type of programming and public broadcasting. You can be sure that when I receive my coveted monthly issue of Real Simple, that there is a built-in halo effect around any advertisers I see as I spend precious time within those pages. The same can be said when a person is watching their favorite shows, reading a heartwarming story online, watching a funny video, or immersing themselves in cheery content during the holidays. 

Pinterest has shared research conducted by Morning Consult, after surveying adults in December of 2022. It showed that positive environments “drive impact at every stage of the purchase funnel.”. Six in 10 American adults agreed that they are more likely to remember, feel positive and trust brands they see online when they are in a positive space.

One thing we discuss with our connected TV media partners is that we care where our commercials run. Not just that they are reaching the right people – but being protective of the actual place and time the spot airs. Broadcast TV buyers have always put a great deal of thought into daypart distribution, programming types, down to specific shows they would consider. But with streaming it has been expected that marketers would just buy the behavioral targeting argument –it doesn’t matter where the spot airs, just that the right person sees it. But do we want our travel advertising appearing in Dr. Pimple Popper, polarizing news, or a stressful documentary? I would argue no, as that is an implicit endorsement of that programming and the content not exactly positive and inspirational. With Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) targeting, that is more possible today. As streaming scale continues to increase, that and other genre targeting will become more available to every advertiser, even those with moderate budgets.

Environment and mindset matters. Ultimately, research shows that positivity is a key driver for action and a road to success. With travel and hospitality, we are very fortunate to market brands and experiences that easily connect with consumers’ deepest dreams and aspirations.