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TripAdvisor pulled its TV advertising so far in 2014 and now we know why: CEO Kaufer says it wasn't hard-hitting and memorable enough, and he's looking for a different impact.

TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer said the company was “pleased” with its first TV advertising campaign in the fourth quarter, but is looking for something with more wallop in 2014.

“We are looking for a harder-hitting campaign,” Kaufer told analysts during TripAdvisor’s fourth quarter earnings call. “Something a bit more memorable than some of our commercials [in 2013].”

TripAdvisor ran TV ads in the U.S., France, Spain and Argentina during the fourth quarter, but was absent from TV in January 2014.

In addition to telling the advertising team that it’s time to “optimize” this year, Kaufer said TripAdvisor will transition to establish more of a long-term presence for the brand on TV rather than advertising in such a concentrated manner, as it did in the fourth quarter.

Such a “concentrated buy” doesn’t make for great advertising efficiencies, Kaufer said, but was carried out because it helps with campaign measurement.

He added that it will always be hard to gauge exactly how much of the growth in TripAdvisor’s new hotel metasearch feature, known as Hotel Shopper, can be attributed to TV advertising.

CFO Julie Bradley said Hotel Shopper finally achieved its goal of “revenue neutrality” in December, meaning it is producing similar revenue gains as the former pop-under advertising.

And, Kaufer said it was a positive sign that TripAdvisor achieved an overall 17% gain in clicked-based advertising during the fourth quarter, despite some hotel metasearch headwinds.

In other developments, Kaufer said that while hotel metasearch was the company’s prime focus in 2013, the introduction of “assisted booking,” where TripAdvisor handles hotel bookings on mobile instead of referring consumer leads to hotels and online travel agencies, will be a top priority in 2014.

Kaufer said that while some hotels and online travel agencies are supportive and understand why TripAdvisor is making assisted booking a priority, other online travel agencies “might prefer for us not to change the model.”

TripAdvisor is transitioning to assisted booking, where consumer complete the booking in the TripAdvisor app, to increase conversions as consumers leads often evaporate if TripAdvisor needs to hand off the consumer from its app to a hotel or online travel agency site.

These holdout online travel agencies, he said, prefer to get the clicks and resultant downloads themselves rather than having TripAdvisor handle the bookings.

Kaufer said the transition to hotel metasearch “was the most transformative usability improvement in our customers’ history,” but he added that with the move to assisted booking “there is just a lot less urgency than what we were facing in 2013 with the meta transition.”

Kaufer offered no timetable for when TripAdvisor will implement assisted bookings on mobile, but added that TripAdvisor is known for moving quickly.



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Tags: advertising, earnings, marketing, tripadvisor

Photo credit: TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer says he's looking for TV advertising in 2014 that carries more punch than did commercials from 2013 like the one pictured above. TripAdvisor

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