Tourism agency breaks ground in ad measurement

The Nevada Commission on Tourism is venturing into new territory as it seeks to measure the return on all of its investments in advertising and public relations.

And the tourism agency already is using results to fine-tune its approach to marketing communication.

The new initiative represents a major expansion from traditional measurement, which focused only on its return on investment in paid advertising.

“We know that a potential visitor also sees magazine articles, social media posts and Web sites, and the collective impact of all plays a vital role in their travel decisions,” says Claudia Vecchio, director of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs.

Searching for an answer, the department teamed with TNS Global, an English company that’s the largest custom marketing research organization in the world.

TNS Global has worked with Fortune 500 companies with similar questions about how advertising, social media and public relations support each other. And it developed tools for the private sector to prove the synergy.

The company developed methodology that allows the Commission on Tourism to undertake the same measurement in the world of destination-marketing organizations.

That’s critical because the Commission on Tourism staff views itself as an integrated marketing agency, one that uses traditional media, digital tools and public relations in a careful mix to draw visitors to the state.

John Packer, a vice president of TNS, says his company needed to develop a more holistic approach to account for the effects of paid, owned and earned media used by the state’s tourism effort.

Paid media is traditional advertising that an organization purchases in print or broadcast outlets. Owned media includes the organization’s own digital assets such as Web sites or social media presence. Earned media is unpaid exposure that the organization receives through magazine features or news articles driven by the organization.

The commission has routinely measured the effectiveness of paid advertising campaigns, using surveys developed by TNS.

Now, TNS also places “tags” on all of the commission’s digital media — whether it’s paid, owned or earned — so that the return can be tracked on it, too.

“We know that this is a mix of science and art, and therefore subject to tweaks and changes as the right model is determined,” says Vecchio. “But this is the ‘Wild West’ of research technology, and we’re thrilled to be at the forefront of it.”

The agency used the methodology to test the results its fall-winter campaign that ran in late 2013 and early 2014. It will follow up with a similar study of its spring-summer campaign this year.

Vecchio said the early results show that the earned, owned and paid media appear be supporting one another effectively to generate visitation to the state.

She said the measurement system that was developed by the Commission on Tourism and TNS is the first of its kind developed for a destination-marketing organization in the United States.

Packer said other tourism agencies are likely to follow in Nevada’s footsteps.

“I can honestly say that as our methodology improves, no destination marketing organization will want to go back to the old way of measuring their marketing,” he said.


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