arrivalist_asheville_2016Asheville tourism officials have a new tool that tracks potential visitors from digital ad exposure to their final destination. It’s called Arrivalist, and local tourism officials hope that the information they glean from the data collected will help them better target, and eventually attract, new visitors.

The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority is spending $76,000 over the course of two years for Arrivalist’s patented technology. It works by measuring the changes in locations of networked-enabled devices after a sequence of media exposures, according to DigitalElement.com. (The company is providing Arrivalist with geolocation technology.) The information allows marketers to measure how effective advertising messages are in influencing travelers.

Marla Tambellini, vice president of marketing and deputy director of the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, told Buncombe TDA officials gathered for their monthly meeting this week that Arrivalist had been inserting tracking pixels on several pages of its ExploreAsheville.com website. (A tracking pixel is code inserted into a custom or third-party creative that makes a server call and returns a transparent 1×1 image -normally a GIF file, according to Google.com.) The “pixeling” will allow Asheville tourism officials to measure just how many people end up in Asheville following targeted marketing.

Addressing a question about privacy concerns, Tambellini said the information “does not get down to the specifics of the person. It’s just someone, somewhere.”

Forbes.com explains that the marketing technology “anonymously measures changes in a user’s location via their mobile devices after various types of media exposure. They triangulate advertising exposure with location-aware digital devices to provide the first true measurement of destination advertising ROI.”

“This is the beginning of big data,” Stephanie Brown, executive director of the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the Buncombe TDA members.

Arrivalist is a start-up that formally launched in January 2013. It is working with tourism boards from Florida’s Palm Beaches to Galveston, New Orleans and Atlantic City, according to a press release. Tambellini said tourism officials made a decision to spend with Arrivalist after hearing positive reports from other tourism boards.

In other action at the Buncombe TDA meeting, board members heard an update about its spring marketing plan from representatives of Peter A. Mayer, the New Orleans-based advertising firm it has hired to help it market Asheville to the masses.

Asheville’s target audience is adults ranging in age from 25 to 64 with median household incomes of $75,000-plus a year, Ellen Kempner of the advertising firm told board members. The potential visitors are experienced travelers who tend to more often than not be women, as well as frequent travelers who often visit places for food. “The see food as an experience and they make travel decisions based on food,” Kempner said. Other “experiential visitors” include tourists who seek outdoor adventures and those who travel to see specific musical acts.

The goal of the advertising, Kempner said, is to: drive overnight visitation during slow periods, known as the “shoulder season”; convert day trips to overnight stays; extend the length of stays by one or two more days; create demand for increased lodging options; and draw visitors during midweek, rather than just weekends.

Kempner also noted several larger trends affecting tourists/consumers: cord-cutting, the proliferation of ad-blockers; the rise of the sharing economy; the increased use of video; and the passion for travel of the Millennial generation.

The spring advertising plan for the Asheville area, in general terms, is to increase online video views, enhance broadcast coverage, expand native advertising and increase advertising in Atlanta, Kempner said. Key markets from which to draw visitors include Atlanta, Charleston, Raleigh, Cincinnatti and Dayton. Next year, local tourism officials plan to air broadcast advertising for Asheville in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and South Florida markets.

Facebook, Huffington Post, Pandora and YouTube are all key platforms for advertising exposure for Asheville, Kempner and a colleague told Buncombe TDA officials. (In Atlanta specifically, one strategy is to use four billboards at key locations to advertise Asheville.)

In other business, the TDA board:

-approved spending $50,000 to fund two new positions – a content writer and a public relations specialist.

-gave a nod of approval to spending $45,000 so that ExploreAsheville could be the presenting sponsor of a Center for Craft, Creativity and Design craft exhibition called Made in WNC at an expo in Brooklyn later this year.

-welcomed the Go Kitchen Ready program, which provided food for the TDA members at their 9 a.m. meeting.

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5 Comments

  1. So they’re spending $76,000 for technology from an out of town company and who knows how much on an out of town ad agency, but $50,000 on TWO new jobs? Doesn’t that seem out of whack?

  2. The Real World says:

    “I don’t need big data metrics to tell me that most of our tourists are white people from the surrounding 7 states.”

    That made me laugh…I’m sure you’re right!

    • “Asheville’s target audience is adults ranging in age from 25 to 64 with median household incomes of $75,000-plus a year, Ellen Kempner of the advertising firm told board members.”

      With median household incomes of $75,000-plus. This always irritates me, and I suppose it should. Everyone that makes under 75,000/combined or 37,500/single is not targeted because they won’t bring enough money into the area?

      Even with a median household income of $75,000 they couldn’t afford to buy a home here!

  3. luther blissett says:

    “This is the beginning of big data,” Stephanie Brown, executive director of the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the Buncombe TDA members.

    No, this is the continuation of the TDA-CVB p*ssing money down a well in the service of the latest buzzwords.

    Kempner also noted several larger trends affecting tourists/consumers: cord-cutting, the proliferation of ad-blockers; the rise of the sharing economy; the increased use of video; and the passion for travel of the Millennial generation.

    Bingo. I rest my case. Let’s take predictions on what kind of slop they’ll get served up on their next trip down to the ad agency in NOLA.

  4. Ughh… consumer analytics is such a good way to throw money around…. Technically, I’m in this field and find it to be so anti-climatic….

    I don’t need big data metrics to tell me that most of our tourists are white people from the surrounding 7 states.

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