To say that the travel (let alone travel advertising) were hit hard by the pandemic may be the understatement of the year.
With lockdown still very much in effect, tight travel restrictions in place, and millions of people apprehensive about just leaving the house, it’s no wonder international arrivals are estimated to have dropped upwards of 80% in 2020.
That said, with vaccines being rolled out slowly but surely, the travel and tourism sectors may begin making a comeback sooner rather than later—and the savviest players will be well-positioned to capitalize on pent-up demand.
The signs of this resurgence are starting to appear in the media. The other day I came across this advertisement for Regent cruises:
For travel marketers looking for ways to use persuasive copywriting to entice people out of the house, this ad provides some clues as to how it can be done:
1. Stop your reader in their tracks.
If you fail at this step, nothing that comes after matters. It’s why David Ogilvy said you should spend 80 cents in your dollar writing headlines. In today’s scrolling culture, there’s more noise than ever—and your words need to cut through. This ad uses just four, paired with a perfect image, that force the reader to pause:
Do you feel it?
This line works for multiple reasons. The question creates instant engagement. The reader can’t help but be involved. It? What is it? You’ve got to read on to find out. Teasing your reader—creating curiosity and then delaying the payoff—is crucial to tugging them into the copy. Importantly, the line employs the most irresistible word to the human ear (or is it ego): “You.
2. Meet them where they are.
You’ve momentarily arrested your reader’s attention—well done. But you won’t have it for long unless you can establish some rapport; something that says “I get you.” This writer does it by speaking to the current reality of the reader—someone who’s been in lockdown for a year, and perhaps longing for an escape, either consciously or subconsciously. It doesn’t take much:
The world. It’s still out there.
“Ah yes,” nods the reader, “I’d almost forgotten.” No talk of new normals or uncertainty or any of the tired phrases that have become ubiquitous in the media. Instead, this travel advertising reaches beyond cliché, appealing to the reader’s imaginative side. In doing so, they unite writer and reader in a place of shared understanding—somewhere only we know, as a band once put it.
3. Speak to their aspirations
Having established some common ground, we can now make the crucial leap from what is to what could be. Creating this contrast is key to stirring desire. In her popular TED Talk, Nancy Duarte brilliantly illustrates how Martin Luther King Jr. employs this see-sawing back and forth between reality and possibility to great effect in his “I Have a Dream” speech. Here, the application is far more subtle, but no less effective:
The city you’ve longed to explore.
The beach you can feel as you close your eyes and breathe it in.
This is where we long to escape to, isn’t it? Notice how the writer touches on the yin and the yang of vacation—urban excitement and rural tranquillity—in two tidy examples, city and beach. A lovely economy; whichever you’re pining for, this ad has you covered.
4. Use sensory language.
Close your eyes and breathe it in.
Who can read these words and not have a visceral reaction? If you’ve read this far, you’re interested. And this sensory bit brings you even further into the picture.
The natural wonder dancing in your soul, pulling you toward the door.
A bit lofty, yeah? But somehow they get away with it. Perhaps because, as a luxury cruise company, Regent knows they’re appealing to a more affluent audience. The people they’re addressing are likely economically unscathed by the pandemic and generally live their lives trying to satisfy the upper reaches of Maslow’s Hierarchy. So this ad can get away with a little puffery—as long as it sings like poetry.
5. Introduce yourself.
At this point, the reader is officially in the mood for exploration. It’s now time to bring the story full circle—and make yourself known:
The world. It’s waiting for you.
We feel it too.
With a deft turn, Regents introduces itself into the picture. Suddenly we’re all in this quest for a new experience together. (And there’s that all-important “you” again).
6. Invite them into an experience.
From here, it’s a matter of describing how Regent’s offering delivers on the promise—in this case, to whisk the reader off to the world they’ve been missing:
Come sale the most luxurious fleet in the world and rediscover the comfort and security found aboard our smaller ships, with never a crowd and with every luxury included.
The copy evokes opulence and adventure, with a subtle nod to safety—just to reassure that, yes, Regents is using its travel advertising, in other words, to put health first.
MarketSmiths Case Study
Picturing a luxury holiday in the Caribbean is easy. Writing about it is far harder. That’s exactly the challenge Nick and Nicky Parker, owners of the Silver Moon catamaran fleet, faced before tapping MarketSmiths. Just as well they did: we soon brought their website to vivid life, helping readers touch and taste the treasures of Barbados all while sitting at their computers. By the time we were done, Nick and Nicky were thrilled with our work—and excited to welcome hundreds more holidaymakers to their corner of paradise.
7. Deliver a call to action.
Finally, of course, is the call to action—the part where you tell your reader what to do next:
Begin your journey with Regent.
The word “journey,” keeps this message right on theme, and brings the whole piece to an artful close—leaving the right reader excited to hop on board.
Well-crafted travel advertising copy gets readers excited to go where you want to take them. If you’d like help creating that language, get in touch with MarketSmiths today.