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AdTech Evolution | The Multi-Tools Of Online Travel

Sharp blade crappy can opener. Being good at everything is hard.
— LB

Convergence. The indiscriminate force of nature shaping online travel, like the river that shapes a canyon., Expedia, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, and Google. They all do a bunch of stuff. Booking probably does hotels better. Expedia does flights better. TripAdvisor does reviews and activities better. Google does most of those things pretty good. They are the multi-tools of online travel.

Convergence is a well-studied law of technological evolution. Smartphones smashed voice, email, web, banking, and video into one awesome multi-tool. What happened to the alarm clock, home phone, DVD player, CD player, and bank teller? Poof.

Why is Booking scrambling to get into rentals, transport, and activities? Why is Expedia Group unifying its brand portfolio? Why is TripAdvisor building moats around its activities business? Why is Trivago dead in the water? Will Airbnb ever do flights? 

Competing as a multi-tool is hard. Having the sharpest blade is probably the most important. But who wants a crappy corkscrew? If you can't be good at everything that you do, then take care when competing as a multi-tool.

Google is an exception. It has the reach to be good at some things and crappy at others. Unlucky for the rest, Google is pretty good at everything.

Hotel Tonight has the right formula. Hotel Tonight is the best, sharpest tool in the shed for same-day bookings.

The problem with the rest is that you only really need one good multi-tool. TripAdvisor is the closest thing. Google is on another level. Booking and Expedia are more like assorted tool boxes. That will change.

Definition of convergence: Merriam-Webster

1: the act of converging and especially moving toward union or uniformity | the convergence of the three rivers; especially : coordinated movement of the two eyes so that the image of a single point is formed on corresponding retinal areas

2: the state or property of being convergent

3: independent development of similar characters (as of bodily structure of unrelated organisms or cultural traits) often associated with similarity of habits or environment

4: the merging of distinct technologies, industries, or devices into a unified whole

  • … offers a variety of services related to the convergence of the Internet and mobile phones - Rob Walker

The Four Dimensions of Travel



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The AdTech Evolution

The weekly round-up for savvy travel leaders.


AdTech Evolution | The Brand Death Conspiracy

“You Are The Product. You Feel Something. That’s What Sells.”
— Draper

Thanks for tuning in.

This week - “the death of advertising” and why the notion is utter nonsense.

Push the product. Forget the brand. Feed the beast. Focus on clicks. Stand by watching as margins wither and Google and Facebook get richer. Those choosing impressions over brand have stopped caring about what they sell. Bad creative on a good product is like smearing lipstick on a prince. Lipstick on a pig never really fooled anyone - not for long at least.

Glut of brands.

Anyone who tells you advertising is dead might work for Google or Facebook. Google generated $28 billion in ad revenue in Q2, up 23.9 percent year-over-year. Facebook grew Q1 revenues by 46 percent. 

They love it when brands compete with mediocre creative. The crappier and less differentiated the brand, the more it spends on performance marketing. When many crappy brands compete for the same customer, more money filters back to Google and Facebook. The claim [that advertising is dead] validates spend on clicks over content.

Performance marketing creates a glut of brands. Why not carve out another toilet paper label - or hotel logo for that matter? Google and Facebook will put it in front of the customer. Your margin, my opportunity. Just make sure to pay Zuckerberg and Bezos their due and proper.

The proverbial race to the bottom ends with Amazon or Google or Facebook wringing out the last remaining margins, right before they reverse engineer your product to squeeze you out on market share.

Tesla has zero ad budget. Why? Because it has no competition - not because advertising is dead. Let’s see how they do once Mercedes and BMW finally wake up.

Brand is as much about quality as it is about association. People actually care about how they spend their money. It reflects on them. They want purpose. A cause. Individuality. All of that is still true. Brand X is nice because it invokes conversation. Where did you get that?

Travel is a hard sell.

It’s infrequent, irregular, expensive, amorphous. When is the right time the perfect time for ad exposure? No one really knows. Sometimes I'm Jekyll sometimes I'm Hyde. Are you selling travel as the service or as the product? Pitching it as a service has gotten some in trouble. Find the cheapest flight. Get their faster. Find the best deal. Best to bake all of that benefit into the product. Southwest is the product. Abercrombie & Kent is the product. Airbnb is the product. Stop selling travel like toilet paper. Start selling dreams. Make them real.

Thanks for listening, 


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Assessing fresh concepts in hospitality.

LUFT worked with a private equity group managing approximately 3 billion in capital to assess an opportunity to invest in a niche luxury accommodations concept. The asset in question was a small portfolio of independently branded beach-front properties, catering to an upper-income clientele base with a passion for water sports. The buying team found existing cash flow and economics favorable, but wanted third-party validation of the concept to ensure long-run potential for growth and alignment with market trends.