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As both airlines and cruise lines chart their recoveries, digital is where they are focusing most of their messaging — with fewer dollars so far.

As the travel industry works to recover, airlines and cruise lines spent 54 percent less in advertising in the second quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2019, according to new data in a study by MediaRadar, an advertising sales intelligence company.

What’s more, 23 percent fewer companies in the airline and cruise industry are advertising than were in 2019, mostly smaller firms, MediaRadar data found.

“The significant drop in the number of airline and cruise line advertisers indicate that though numbers stabilized between 2020 and 2021, as a direct result of the pandemic, the smaller companies that may fly local and operate local pleasure tours are no longer advertising on a national level, if at all,” a MediaRadar spokesperson said.

Focusing on the advertising spending of 301 companies and the content of their ads this year, the study shows combined spending of $71.4 million across print, television, and digital formats, with ad spend varying between airlines and cruise lines based on respective target audiences, a MediaRadar spokesperson said. In 2019, a total of 390 companies spent $155.7 million on advertising.

Both airlines and cruise lines are concentrating efforts on digital platforms with 38 percent of all spending utilizing this medium for advertising in 2021, followed by 32 percent in print and 20 percent television ads, MediaRadar data show.

Top brands in both industries are distributing their digital ad spending across Facebook, podcasts, streaming, YouTube, and other video sites for ad placements, a MediaRadar spokesperson said.

For More on Digital Advertising From Skift:  Read This Latest Report “Digital Advertising in Travel 2021”

For example, of the 113 cruise lines spending $34.6 million in ads across print, TV, and digital platforms, Disney Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas, Viking Cruises, American Cruise Lines, and Oceana Cruises invested the most in ads ranging from $2 million to $11.3 million in the second quarter of 2021, a MediaRadar spokesperson said.

On the other hand, the study found that Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America, Costa Cruise Tours, Virgin Voyages, and Hurtigruten Cruises spent significantly less ranging between $82,000 and $500,000 on ads.

Covid-19 messaging was almost non-existent among all the cruise line ads MediaRadar reviewed. Instead of mentioning pandemic restrictions the industry is following, ads focused on the luxurious, adventurous, and relaxing aspects of cruising, a MediaRadar spokesperson said. Directing customers to book through travel agents was another thing missing from cruise line ads, the spokesperson added.

Some airline ads reviewed by MediaRadar including ones by JetBlue and American signal the travel recovery is underway by omitting mention of the pandemic, the spokesperson said.

Todd Krizelman, MediaRadar’s co-founder and CEO, believes that by not mentioning the pandemic, companies are not polarizing a portion of the audience seeing their ads.

“By not mentioning the pandemic you no longer are reminding people of something bad. For many, the last year was full of bad memories that they want to put behind them. Additionally, some portion of the population did not believe the pandemic was a problem,” Krizelman said.

Companies may be missing an opportunity by not mentioning the pandemic or at least inferring it, Krizelman said.

“Many airlines, hotels and resorts are saying, to paraphrase, ‘come visit us now, we miss you after this long hibernation. You deserve it,’ That sense of delayed gratification can be powerful,” said Krizelman. “They don’t mention the pandemic explicitly but are using it in their messaging. Messaging like this is certainly different from pre-pandemic.”

MediaRadar found 188 airlines placed advertising during the second quarter of 2021. While Qatar, United, Southwest, Delta, and American topped the list in spending between $2 million to $10 million in ads, airlines with ad spending below a million dollars include Icelandair, Allegiant Air, Air France, KLM Royal Dutch, Emirates, and Alaska Airlines, a MediaRadar spokesperson said.

Before the pandemic, cruise line companies were following an upward trend of increasing advertising spending by 30 percent year over year and airline companies were on a downward trend decreasing ad spends an average of 15 percent year over year, a MediaRadar spokesperson said.

Despite a 63 percent fall in airline advertising between 2019 and 2020, the data show advertising spend is up 106 percent year over year in 2021, she added.

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Tags: advertising, airlines, coronavirus recovery, cruise industry

Photo credit: A Carnival Freedom cruise ship sits at a port waiting on passengers to sail. Rapidfire / Skift

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