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Why Tablet Hotels is launching a campaign during a pandemic

Two years in the making, Michelin-owned hotel booking company Tablet Hotels has decided the time was right to debut its first global ad campaign. Tablet chief marketing officer Lucy Lieberman explains the thinking behind the new effort.

As lockdowns tighten across the globe, one booking service is debuting a new campaign targeting intrepid travelers. Tablet Hotels, a global hotel booking company owned by Michelin, is looking to help people find the best hotel for their style of travel — even if fewer people are traveling at the moment.

The campaign certainly wasn’t supposed to coincide with a pandemic, but if Covid-19 has proven one thing, it’s that companies definitely need to be flexible.

Tablet, founded in 2000, had mostly grown through word-of-mouth, with loyal users spreading the news about the personalized experiences at top hotels around the world. After it was acquired by Michelin in 2018 the company began its efforts to build its first global campaign.

“We had put together a plan to introduce Tablet to the rest of the world, and we had timed that to go out in the spring,” says Tablet Hotels chief marketing officer Lucy Lieberman. “We could see the impact of the pandemic in February, because we could see that booking volume was declining in parts of Asia. So, we pulled things back and have spent the last several months re-engineering how we were going to roll out the brand campaign to complement the drastically reduced performance marketing tactics that had been in place all along.”

The company wanted to position itself in a “compelling, interesting way, really different from the competition, to have this whole marketing ecosystem in place,” says Lieberman.

Tablet was looking to make a huge media buy to support the campaign, but it has since shifted tack to be more targeted.

“It is a week-by-week process of figuring out where is there a demand for travel, where is it permitted, where can it be done safely. We’re literally adjusting weekly. We’re following the cadence of the pandemic, trying to veer people away from the big, faceless booking services and over to Tablet, where you’ll get more attention, a better UX, better service and not drown in options,” says Lieberman. “What we’ve seen is that once people use Tablet they really become fans. This is just a scaled down version of introducing people to Tablet. This was intended to be a two-plus year effort.”

The campaign will run on display on programmatic platforms, and will also feature social media posts, some print ads, and will start with podcast radio in 2021.

Local is the new global

Considering the travel restrictions that are growing by the day, Tablet is encouraging more staycations and a curation tool called ‘Take me away’ which helps people find a way to get away that is tailored to their desires.

“We’re working with hotels on safety measures. We definitely want people to be safe. We rolled out first stage of our Tablet Recovery Pledge so people can be confident of their hotel choices. Our business is hotels. So, we’re trying to be careful and cautious, but acknowledge that people are still traveling,” she says.

A survey of 4,000 global travelers, conducted by OAG during the summer, found that 81% of North Americans are planning on flying domestically in the next six months and 73% are anticipating international travel. Globally, 79% of travelers are looking at domestic flights and 69% are planning international air travel.

On Monday, travel stocks surged on the report of Pfizer's positive progress developing Covid-19 vaccine.

To capture the imaginations of those dreaming of travel, the campaign is meant to be lively and aspirational — while taking a swipe at the competition which relies heavily on bots. ‘The Office’ finds a man daydreaming about being on the beach as a voice-over states: ‘Even when you’re traveling for work, finding a hotel shouldn’t feel like work‘, a jab at booking engines that claim to present many choices, but which don’t really speak to customers‘ personalities or desires. Another spot shows characters enjoying the finer things in life – staking Tablet as a place to find those things. Still another says that you don’t want a “bot-served hotel room.”

The spots end with the tagline: “A booking experience as delightful as the experience booked.” The campaign was created by agency Lightning Orchard alongside an international team.