Expedia has partnered with the San Antonio Tourist Board to create a virtual mini-vacation across its websites. “My Day In San Antonio” allows users to choose from a variety of hot spots around the city such as The Alamo, the zoo and even a Tex-Mex dinner. Once a location has been chosen, the user is transported there via a brief 360-degree video. The ads may be viewed in a browser or with a VR headset for further immersion. On mobile, the ads respond to multiple phone sensors including the gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer.
Expedia Media Solutions is the company’s advertising arm and the team responsible for Hawaii’s facial recognition campaign, “Discover Your Aloha.” We asked Olson Killion why 360-degree video was chosen to showcase San Antonio as opposed to other technologies available.
“[360-degree video] really puts the consumer in the mindset of being in that destination,” she told AListDaily. “It’s in between beautifully-produced video and true virtual reality, but it gives the consumer control. They can control what they want to look at when they want to look at it. In this instance, there are hot spots that they can click on throughout so they can kind of choose their own travel adventure as they are doing this. The output is a kind of personal itinerary that [users can] book if they wanted to. I think the difference is really that immersive control and personalization of that experience.”
“We’ve never used this technology for any other campaigns or any other cities,” Olson Killion said. “We are always looking for ways of pushing the technology just a bit beyond the bounds. ‘Discover Your Aloha’ was the first in class to use that facial recognition software in a browser. Now we use gyroscopes and accelerometers on mobile—we’re always looking for different combinations and different ways of using technologies . . . we are a technology company first and foremost in the awesome world of travel.”
“My Day In San Antonio” launched on May 1 and will run through September. It may be too early to share metrics, but Expedia Media Solutions is ready to take on any challenges that pop up along the way.
“The feedback has been really good,” said Olson Killion, “[but] we always look to and learn and optimize. If we see something in the campaign where the results aren’t as strong as we would expect, we would look at what we’ve learned from the campaign thus far and optimize it based on data and other hypotheses. We always want to make sure we’re getting good results for every partner.”
Travel brands have proven to be eager adopters of new technology and Expedia plans to stay at the forefront of marketing trends, especially as they appeal to young consumers.
“We definitely feel that VR and AR are going to be more accessible and more affordable, allowing marketers to bring [virtual travel] experiences to life, raising awareness for their products and destinations,” explained Olson Killion. “One of the other big trends we see is personalization through data. Data is very, very important to us. Consumers are expecting content experiences that are personalized to their needs and travel brands will need to use data such as sophisticated targeting in combination with new technologies to create personalized offerings, itineraries, etc. that appeal to specific audiences.”
Could virtual reality vacations replace the travel industry? Olson Killion doesn’t think so. “[VR] can help educate, it can inspire but it can’t replace the authentic feel of being in a destination and really doing some of these experiences.
“I love my job, I love what we do, I love the space and being able to marry technology with travel for the betterment of the world—it’s really cool.”