Display ad campaigns have proven to boost brand searches online and even increase sales. But finding the right mix of search and display advertising can be tricky for advertisers. In the case of Travelocity, the popular travel website has moved towards using real-time search data in its display ads.

It seems like a simple enough strategy. The result? A 203% increase in bookings online. How’d they do it?

For starters, they did away with their traditional (and costly) brand messaging ads online. Instead, they started to answer some of the questions consumers were asking about travel online.The new ads are targeted in real-time according to visitors’ most recent search queries.

According to AdAge:

“In the new world, engines like Teracent’s sit on top of the campaigns,
matching the messaging to the audience and, on the fly, sewing together
creative assets with messages based on a host of dynamic parameters,
such as search intent and how far down users drilled into a particular
category. So, for example, if a user clicked on the area that ranks
hotels by star ratings, this person would only see ads from Travelocity
that promote luxury hotels.”

The results have been pretty good — this campaign has driven down Travelocity’s cost-pre-transaction 79%. The company also saw a 230%
increase in bookings and click-through rates jumped 651%.

Chip Hall, senior VP of sales and marketing at Teracent, tells AdAge:

“Display has to change, otherwise it’s headed for failure. If
advertisers don’t recognize online is more challenged with the old
approaches and needs to be incredibly hyper-targeted, they’re going to

That’s part of why publishers are saddened to see that they’re going to have to work harder to win display advertising dollars going forward. Newspapers have a need/hate relationship with ad networks, which has been reiterated by the latest display ad figures, which have shown that advertisers often start campaigns with premiere publishers, then shift to the networks.

And now it looks like the recent bounce in display advertising is skipping over newspapers. According to The New York Times:

“As long as an ad looks good, it does not matter whether it runs on a fancy site or a lower-end site, some research indicates.”

The most recent earnings updates reiterate that point. While Google and Yahoo have seen slight increases in display ad revenue, The New York Times and Gannett have seen declines (18.5% and 20% to be exact.)

Both of these examples show that if advertisers — and publishers — want to see their display revenue increase, they need to come up with innovative tricks that web surfers get what they’re looking for.

Image: Travelocity