What's wrong with the New York Times?

Nothing really, so far as we can see. 

So one has to wonder why there is so little travel advertising in the Sunday Travel section. Sometimes, there only one or two ads in there. It's a national run - they don't do regional editions - and the open rate is a shade less than $1,200 per column inch. That means for about $18,000 you can run a 3 x 5 ad with almost no competition. Nationwide.

Which is to say, to people all over the country who are enjoying the Sunday Times over breakfast and coffee. And, because they are reading the Travel section, they have an interest in travel. These folks probably also have the time and money to travel, which makes that 18 grand a pretty good deal.

A highly visible 3 x 5 ad one time in a respected newspaper with a desirable readership. Well, no, it's not exactly a collection of cubes and leaderboards that come and go on all sort of websites (including some you'd never want to visit), and it's not the same as Adwords.

But it can sure as hell make those other things work harder. 

There's more to it than just "Internet marketing"

"Internet marketing" is very popular in hospitality circles. There are agencies who do nothing else. And it's a good thing, too.  You need them.

With AdWords, SEO, re-targeting campaigns and the like, they can do a lot to bring eyeballs to your website.

But there's more to marketing success than just eyeballs. If that was the case, you could simply spray paint your website address on a highly visible wall and sit back and watch the money roll in. It's not just a matter of telling people you exist. It's important to tell them why they ought to do business with you.

And unless that reason has something to do with your unique brand, you're more likely to be cornered into competing on price. That brand is the thing that will dramatically reduce your competitive field.

If rate matters to you – and it should – you'll do better with a clear brand message that you deliver in your digital advertising and on your website (and everywhere else). A message that should be creative, compelling and memorable.

Price is the easiest thing there is to give away and the hardest thing there is to get back.

The stultifying sameness of advertising

Here's a fun thing to do. 

Google a bunch of hotels and resorts and look up a bunch on TripAdvisor. This will prime your re-targeting pump and you'll get to see a lot of digital ads for these folks and people like them. Cubes, leaderboards - the works.

You're going to see fairly quickly that they look pretty much alike. Especially the resorts - a beach-in-the-foreground-water-in-the-background shot with some line that, frankly, is probably pretty much interchangeable with any other line on any other ad. In other words, nothing terribly unique or compelling here folks, move along. It appears that nobody ever even thought, for example, to show the beach from the water - if for no other reason, just to look different enough to attract attention.

Lookalike advertising is a waste of money. The purpose of advertising is to grab some eyeballs to your message. Not look like everybody else.

AdWords are like the Yellow Pages

This is an interesting thing about some social media firms: They don't believe very strongly in integration. If you'd let them, they'd put your entire budget into things like AdWords.

Which, if you're selling on price and don't see any reason for anybody to distinguish your brand from anybody else's, is probably a pretty good idea.

But, as the headline says, AdWords are a lot like the old Yellow Pages. They can't do much to tell anybody why they ought to do business with you. Except price. And actually, in that sense, the old Yellow Pages provided for display ads that let you say something about yourself.

The success of AdWords is often measured in clicks, not conversions. And certainly not conversions at a premium price. To a certain extent, they operate on the throw-a-whole-lot-of-stuff-against-the-wall theory and plan on a certain amount of it sticking.  That's the same theory that drives robot telemarketing calls. And spam e-mails.

Perhaps it's better to employ some re-targeting and put a brand message in front of people who are looking at your category. Or even your competition. Then they'll know something about you and perhaps even visit your website. And the next time they fire up the old Googletron, they are more likely to be looking for you  - not just people who look like you.