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1 year on: how Wanderlab has changed the game for Tripadvisor


By Jenni Baker, Senior Editor

December 14, 2023 | 7 min read

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Tripadvisor is “not the same old marketing operation you once thought it was.” We chatted with the team behind Wanderlab – its in-house content studio – on its one year anniversary to discuss its evolution from boxes and banners into immersive advertising experiences.

Immersive experience in London

Tripadvisor's Abu Dhabi Experience in London

A fully immersive 4D Abu Dhabi experience in London’s Outernet, an out of home campaign for Visit San Diego in various US cities and the first travel branded entertainment series on Amazon Prime Video. Not campaigns you might have associated with Tripadvisor's advertising offering in the past – but it’s “not the same old marketing solutions operation you once thought it was,” says Adam Ochman, global director of Wanderlab.

And Ochman should know. He was tasked just over one year ago to turn Tripadvisor’s Marketing Solutions team on its head to change perception in the market and showcase that Tripadvisor offers more than just written content and display ads, but leaning into building immersive multi-sensory experiences from streaming to social campaigns through its in-house content advertising studio, Wanderlab.

Launched in 2022, Wanderlab is a full-service, global creative content marketing and innovation studio, made up of a team of 40+ creative strategists, analysts, designers, producers, directors, writers and more, from bases in London, Singapore and New York to serve its global advertising client base.

“We handle everything in-house from inception to execution, which gives us a sense of pride as not all of our competitors can say the same thing,” says Ochman. “We are literally using our community data and insights to drive creative ideas and marketing campaigns to solve our clients’ brand challenges. We look at ourselves as the full end-to-end solution.”

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Experiential realms

Through Wanderlab, Tripadvisor saw early adoption from destination marketing organizations (DMOs) like The Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, Türkiye Tourism Promotion and Development Agency, the Moroccan National Tourist Office and Visit Orlando – notably on The Wanderer series, the first travel branded programming to feature on Amazon Prime Video.

And its client base is evolving as more traditional destinations are realizing that they want a piece of that creative mindset. But a big growth area is coming through increased demand from brands in the automotive, fintech, telco, spirits and entertainment sectors, running campaigns for Ford, HBO, Walgreens and Cutwater Spirits in the US and L’Oreal and Mars Petcare in EMEA.

“We’re playing in an area that – regardless of client – is bringing the digital and physical spaces together,” says Ochman. “We’re thinking about all the different ways our communities are interacting and consuming content, meeting them there and meeting their needs and desires through opportunities that allow them to interact with brands in new ways.”

And the format slate from Wanderlab has exploded “in the best way possible,” says Ochman. “We’re already playing in web3 to try and figure out what things like the metaverse looks like for us and working with generative AI. It’s got to keep evolving but it’s not innovation for the sake of innovation, it’s innovation that meets our partners’ marketing objectives and KPIs.”

Evolve or die

This balancing act between keeping up with consumer and client demands has driven the studio into new and interesting creative directions, but everything is still rooted in its audience and the wealth of insights from the 400m+ monthly users and over one billion reviews.

“If we hadn’t evolved through Wanderlab to start doing all these things, we’d be on a path to becoming obsolete in terms of what our key DMO clients are looking for,” says Justin Reid, director of media, destinations, hotels and growth, Tripadvisor.

“In a post-Covid world, we would have survived to a point but it would have been a law of diminishing returns. Instead, what we’ve seen is budgets doubling – even tripling – because of the creative output coming out of Wanderlab. Starting with voice, then with video and now with all this immersive stuff. All of this is not only keeping us in the game, it’s putting us at the top of the game.”

Out of this world

Looking ahead to the next year of Wanderlab, Ochman believes “a big part of it is watching consumer interests to see where that is moving to ensure that we not only stay in line with it, but hopefully get ahead of it as well and continually push ourselves and partners as much as they are pushing us to go bigger, better and more immersive.”

And it’s this kind of collaboration with partners to which the team owes a lot of the success of Wanderlab in year one. “A lot of our relationships start with an interesting idea – but those ideas are always enhanced and accentuated through dialogue with our partners to become something better,” says Steven Paganelli, head of Americas partnerships at Tripadvisor.

Marketers should be “willing to take risks and try something different to be pushing the needle,” he adds. For Tripadvisor’s Wanderlab, there’s no telling what the future holds – but what we do know is that sustainability and even space tourism are on the cards next.

To find out more about Wanderlab, visit here.

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