Experiment: How Tourism New Zealand measured the incremental impact of display ads on tourist visits

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What we set out to test

Can marketers measure display ads’ ability to drive incremental arrivals to tourist destinations?

The background

Tourism New Zealand is a government agency responsible for encouraging global travelers to visit the country. As digital’s role in travel research, planning, and booking gets bigger, Tourism New Zealand is increasingly focusing on connecting with people online — particularly with its award-winning 100% Pure New Zealand campaign.

Thanks to Tourism New Zealand’s efforts, more and more people have been visiting the country in the last few years — but the organization wanted to make sure that its digital campaigns were efficiently and effectively influencing people’s decisions to visit the country. That’s why Tourism New Zealand partnered with Google to measure the impact its display ads have on tourist visits.

How we set the experiment up

Tourism New Zealand set up a control vs. exposed test for its display campaigns in Australia and ran a separate display campaign in New Zealand for three months in early 2019.

  • Step one — set up test groups: Tourism New Zealand kicked off its display campaign in Australia and randomly split prospective travelers into two groups. The control group was shown a non-promotional ad while the exposed group was served an ad from its 100% Pure New Zealand campaign.
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  • Step twofollow up with visitors: The organization then launched another display campaign in New Zealand to connect with people who had visited the country after seeing or clicking on either ad in Australia. Tourism New Zealand served these tourists an ad promoting responsible travel.
  • Step three — measure incremental visits: Tourism New Zealand used Campaign Manager to match each unique impression for its campaign in New Zealand to each unique impression for its campaign in Australia. Each match was counted as a country visit. Tourism New Zealand then tapped BigQuery to compare the number of visitors who came to New Zealand after seeing a promotional ad to the number of travelers who visited after seeing a non-promotional ad.

What we learned

Display ads’ impact on tourist visits can be measured accurately. Tourism New Zealand saw that its promotional display ads drove 11% more tourist visits compared to the non-promotional ads. The organization also saw 12X higher return on ad spend (ROAS) for these incremental visits based on average visitor spend.

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“Now that we can accurately attribute incremental impact of online advertising on offline arrivals to New Zealand, we are able to further optimize our creative, channel, and audiences across the consumer journey.” - Emil Petrov, Head of Strategic Projects, Tourism New Zealand

This case study is part of the Experiment with Google Ads program.

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