How martech and social helped South Australia Tourism deliver - and prove - marketing ROI

Marketing leader of South Australia Tourism Commission talks through the digital marketing technology investments and social media innovations it's using to bring more tourists to the festival state

An investment into data-driven social media marketing has seen South Australia Tourism Commission lift online engagement, grow average visitor spend into the Festival State – and importantly, prove marketing ROI.

SATC executive director of marketing, Brent Hill, told CMO the promotional body has undergone a digital marketing transformation over the past three years aimed at delivering ROI visibility and stronger returns on marketing and media activity. It’s work underpinned by investment into Adobe’s Marketing Cloud and Ad Cloud technology platforms, and sees the team better harnessing data smarts, innovative social content formats and programmatic media.  

“It wasn’t enough to simply say we’re there to provide awareness and get people thinking about coming to South Australia – we needed to drill down on return on investment and put clear metrics in place,” Hill said.

As the team strived to build and maximise internal platforms, it’s been working with social partners, Facebook and Instagram, over the last nine months to drill down on visitation to South Australia and improve marketing through social channels. Key has been understanding what impact SATC’s next-generation website and social content have in getting people to think about South Australia as a destination, to making bookings and in delivering visitor spend.

The first lesson in creating more relevant and targeted communication pieces and personalising media is that it all comes down to data, Hill said.

“There’s so much more data available to use in terms of personalisation, plus also what we get as feedback,” he said of social media marketing. “Data is the critical thing – and you can only get out what you’re prepared to put in.

“We’ve made significant investments in terms of money and time in Audience Manager and data internally. That meant we were in a good position to see what types of consumers and tourists were coming through. With Facebook, you get an extra layer of data people put in, so when combined together, we’ve got a powerful tool.

“But Facebook is not a panacea; you have to do the groundwork at your end to maximise results.”

Thanks to work done to date, SATC is using 13 metrics to showcase marketing ROI, from website traffic through to leads to operators.

“For example, with our summer campaigns, and if we’re partnering with Qantas, we can see those bookings and we’re data sharing with some operators,” Hill explained, adding SATC has data sharing relationships with several operators that help close this loop.

Example of one of the top-performing images on social for SATC
Example of one of the top-performing images on social for SATC


Granular detail around whether a link ad is better than a carousel ad on Facebook also allows SATC to refine advertising units, then match it against first-party data to determine a return on media spend.

“Marketers are always trying to get attribution and that’s the thing I love with this process – the amount of attribution data we now have to say we did that, and these are the results we saw,” Hill continued.

“Thanks to insights we have into spend, advertising costs per visitor, and knowing how much an average visitor spends when they come to SA, we can get a clear return on media spend. And it’s shown Facebook is a really useful mechanism and cost effective one for us.”

Another thing this data-led approach has done is remove subjectivity from creative and ad format development, Hill said.

“We often design a number of different creatives and put them into the market, then let the market dictate what works. We can get good levels of A/B testing, and we also have marketing scrum meetings, to talk about which images we think will resonate the most, or the offer. Then we review the results and it can be quite different to what we think,” he said. “The great thing about the data-led approach is it’s helping us give people what they want.”

For example, while SATC typically talks about wine, the outback and wildlife, its digital marketing work highlighted significant interest in Adelaide city and its urban beaches.

“One other thing that emerged is accommodation is a vital part of the journey, particularly for domestic visitors,” Hill said. “We could see through our technology that once people start thinking about Adelaide, where they will stay is the first tab people click on the tourism website.”

Of course, more personalised marketing and media inevitably means higher volumes of content. SATC has brought on content and social staff to support these additional formats, image and call-to-action requirements.

“It’s obvious you can follow the rabbit down the burrow in terms of personalising content,” Hill commented. “We could find an Adelaide Crows supporter who has never been to Port Lincoln and is interested in wildlife sites and serve them something. But we have to be very clear on the value of that versus pulling back a bit to a bigger group, which may be more effective.”

Generally, a meaningful cohort will represent between 2000 and 4000 people, Hill said, and SATC’s target market stretch from 18 to 65 year olds. It’s also about knowing who not to target.

“Much as we love to believe everyone wants to come to South Australia, there are people we’ll put in an ‘active avoidance’ group we know not to target as there’s no point,” he added.  

Social media successes

As an example of work done by SATC off the back of its marketing technology investments, Hill pointed to its ‘Rewards wonder’ campaign in October. This tapped Facebook Live as a way of engaging people with long-form video content, which featured high-profile South Australians as well as unique geographic locations.

The program revolved around a 120-hour, live stream hosted on YouTube and SATC’s website. Using snippets of video, SATC then instigated one-hour Facebook Live streams retargeting consumers with specific content relating to their interests, such as swimming with sea lions. The result was more than 3 million organic and paid impressions through Facebook, 113,375 total viewers and 7802 engagements on Facebook Live.

Importantly, SA tourism operators received more than 10,000 leads in the first week of the campaign.  

Another example of social lifting results was SATC’s visitation study. Using Facebook and Instagram advertising, the promotional body increased visitation to South Australia among the study group by 1 percent while increasing visitor spend by 2 percent in a nine-month period. By measuring the digital media cost per incremental visitor and the average spend per visitor the SATC could demonstrate a return on advertising spend of greater than 16:1. More widely, using video in carousel ads has improved open rates and led to double-digit CPM savings.

Of course, targeted digital and social spend doesn’t come at the expense of broader mainstream reach, and Hill said he’s a big believer in the Ehrenberg-Bass school of thought that all media plays a role in success. Today, about 55 per cent of SATC media spend is going into digital, versus 45 per cent into reach.

“We ensure we have TV advertising and big reach advertising going at the same time,” he said. “You often get CFOs trying to say exactly what the return on investment is on a TV ad. No marketing director is going to pull out every other piece of advertising just to see what that result is. There is a cumulative effect.

“So even though digital is fantastic for getting that ROI, I’ll never go away from the broad reach piece going in conjunction with this, because it could be three or four things getting that person to visit SA.”

On the cards for Hill this year is making better use of new and emerging features such as Instagram Stories, which launched last year. “We can put accommodation offer in there and get 1000 direct leads to an operator, so we’re getting very direct results,” he said.

Asked where he thought social media played the strongest role in the marketing funnel, meanwhile, Hill said data-led advancements see it impacting right along the consumer journey.

“There’s absolutely a role in that incentive and dreaming phase, then there’s that stage we can get quite targeted ads to people we know are receptive. What’s then exciting is once someone has agreed to travel, social has a role to play ‘in trip’ – we can increase expenditure by targeting people coming to our state or in Adelaide, by suggesting things to do while they’re here,” Hill said.

“Even post-trip - word-of-mouth is so strong.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu  

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