We released our first e-book this week on the Future of Travel Booking.
Inside is an unprecedented collection of 17 interviews with the CEOs of virtually all of the world’s top online booking sites, including an extensive, book-only interview with the Priceline Group’s Darren Huston. Huston became CEO of the Priceline Group on January 1, 2014 after being appointed CEO of Booking.com, a role he retains, more than three years ago and turning it into Priceline’s most valuable asset.
Below is a short excerpt from the interview. In addition to discussing Priceline’s challenges with Google and TV advertising, Huston addresses what he doesn’t like about travel metasearch despite owning Kayak, why he’s in “constant discussions” with HomeAway, the Priceline Group’s perspective on tours and activities, and why the company acquired OpenTable, Buuteeq and Hotel Ninjas.
Skift: In your third quarter earnings call you talked about the Priceline Group’s TV advertising as being a breakthrough because it reduces your reliance on Google. One question I have is do you think that was overstated in terms of reducing your reliance on Google given the amount that you still spend on Google paid search? And the other thing is the TV space is so competitive and now we’re seeing that millennials are changing their habits about watching TV, so how do you see this whole thing playing out?
Darren Huston: It’s overstated as being anything sudden. It’s certainly overstated that people think that we don’t have a huge and very critical relationship with Google. It’s overstated if they think that what we were trying to do was to lower our reliance on Google. It was a natural outcome in some ways because Google is having harder times growing as fast as we need to grow, so we’re sourcing demand from more and more varied places. That includes now doing offline marketing which is another form of demand generation. We, as a company, love Google search.
Skift: You sort of have it down.
Huston: Yes, because it’s the most data-driven, the most sophisticated advertising marketplace for people who have products that are really good products that convert well. When you go down from Google and you even get into Bing or Yandex or Baido and then you get in to the metas and things, the marketplace has become less good. Each of them is improving, but they are harder to buy from and then you go all the way to the extreme offline marketing, which for us is like … We’re data junkies, so offline marketing is like this thing … We ultimately want tons and tons of data.