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CNN is helping travel brands prep for a post-lockdown overseas rush

CNN is helping travel brands prepare for what they hope is a rush of demand once lockdowns lift.

CNN has produced a branded marketing campaign for the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The creative is significant, indicating that travel and leisure brands are ready to return to the market. James Hunt, vice-president of creative and marketing lead at CNN International Commercial, explained he's working to help brands find their lockdown voice, even if products currently remain just out of reach.

CNN and the UNWTO have released the ‘Travel Tomorrow’ campaign, a 60-second film taking viewers to eight locations around the globe. The hope is to stoke wanderlust among tourists waiting for travel restrictions to be eased around the world.

More broadly, CNN is witnessing how travel and tourism organisations are starting to spend again, escalating from near-silence to a war for share of voice as they jostle to be the destination housebound globetrotters spend lockdown dreaming of.

The film, produced by Create, CNN International Commercial’s (CNNIC) in-house creative studio, conveys optimism for prospective journeys. “Travel and tourism is by far one of the most affected sectors as a result of this pandemic,“ said Rani Raad, president of CNN Worldwide Commercial, when the campaign ran across CNN's broadcast and social channels.

In the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, the UNWTO recognised the enormous challenges facing the travel and tourism sector. Its message has been ‘By staying home today, we can travel tomorrow’, but this will evolve in coming months as lockdown measures in the east loosen. From a publisher perspective, agility, a story worth watching and geo-targeted distribution will be required to help travel and leisure brands navigate comms.

In APAC and the Middle East, conversations are accelerating now there is “confidence that Covid-19 crisis is under control“. Brands in these regions are preparing to re-engage consumers.

“Every nation and every company dependent on travel and tourism needs to be developing their strategy to attract and accommodate visitors for when the world is ready to travel again,“ said Hunt.

Of course, the market’s going to be greatly changed at the other end of the pandemic. Consumers won’t just be looking for beautiful countries and exciting adventures – safety will be a huge factor in planning and price.

Soon the work will step up. As Hunt said: “We will work closely with our partners to pivot current awareness campaigns to actual destination campaigns.”

It's just one example of the role publishers have to play in the marketing sphere right now.

What clients want

Hunt said that the team has been in regular comms with partners throughout the crisis.

While travel and leisure has been hit particularly hard, “across many sectors, every conversation is different“. For the global brands CNN talks to, the impact on businesses differs by region and the severity of local lockdowns.

With more variables than ever to consider, CNN built a central taskforce across CNNIC comprised of staff from its brand strategy, media planning, audiences, data and creative teams to guide the sales team and clients through audience behaviours and trends. Simultaneously, it has been running webinars on the very same subjects. “The response was welcomed by our clients,“ said Hunt.

Pre-coronavirus, publishers would often work with brands on purpose campaigns, “particularly when engaging with an affluent and high-end audience,” said Hunt. Now the pandemic is accelerating this trend. According to Global Web Index data, 79% of consumers now approve of brands running campaigns that show how they are responding to coronavirus in order to help their customers.

In practice, this has meant that a many campaigns CNN was already involved in have pivoted, to “ensure they are in tune with what our clients are doing and what our audiences expect from them”.

An early example of this was the ‘Art of Leadership’ campaign with BMW, including sponsorship of a series and distribution across CNN platforms of branded content from Create. The campaign had been long in the works, but needed a great many late changes to make it more relevant.

Looking forward

In steering clients out of the pandemic, CNN has a threefold strategy.

Helping client ”strengthen their ability to remobilise” comes first, primarily through helping to tailor messaging and get it to the correct audiences.

Next, resources are being poured into ”more needed” sectors, which includes home entertainment companies, online banking and retail or, at a corporate level, the big consultancies.

And finally, CNN is planning for that dreaded expression ”the new normal”.

”Out of necessity, people are trying new technologies and accessing products, services and content in ways they never had before. Many of these habits will endure and we will be ready to work with brands as they adapt to the new world order.

Hunt concluded: ”One thing is clear – once Covid-19 has been overcome, there will be no going ’back’. A new world awaits.”

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