Cookies, Creative and the CMA: News for Hotel Marketers

In the first of a new series of industry news, updates and insights into what we’re experimenting with at Rank Defender we look at three topics:

  1. Facebook Dynamic Creative – a new tool with some great potential for boutique hotel marketing.
  2. EU ePrivacy Law – know your cookies ahead of new regulations coming in May 2018.
  3. Investigation into Hotel Booking Websites – are OTAs breaking the law?

Facebook Dynamic Creative

Facebook Dynamic Creative is a recently released feature available to businesses (on a phased rollout) for the Facebook ads platform. The initial release was announced in September 2017  (through Facebook’s API and Power Editor) and we at Rank Defender began testing it in October 2017. The tool allows users to determine which creative works best for their audiences. Our initial tests suggest a reduced cost per result and the benefit of being able to provide our clients with feedback on which images, copy and CTA buttons are most effective.

The Facebook Dynamic Creative tool goes some way to addressing the need identified by tools such as Adespresso and Qwaya, to make it easier for advertisers to perform advertising tests and learn what performs best for their audience. It works by inputting a variety of different creative options for each field. The catch? They must all work together in any combination.

Elements of Facebook Dynamic Creative Ads

Facebook allows you to use up to 30 creative assets in creating each ad.

  • Title: maximum of 5 per ad, we recommend little more than 25 characters
  • Image/Video: maximum of 10 images or videos (currently you may not mix the two)
  • Text: maximum of 5 per ad, we recommend no more than 90 characters
  • Description: maximum of 5 per ad, not essential but a good place for copy to catch those that scan past the text above the image
  • CTA: maximum of 5 different call-to-action buttons, you can choose from a list
Components of a Facebook Dynamic Creative ad.

Each of the components within your Dynamic Creative ads need to work with any of the variations you enter for each field.

Benefits for Boutique Hotel Digital Marketing

The question we initially asked here at Rank Defender was, “What benefits are there in Facebook Dynamic Creative for boutique hotel marketing?” Well, we won’t stop working on ways to improve the method but the results so far indicate two major positives:

  1. Low and decreasing cost per result
  2. Valuable feedback on advertising creative

In our first test, the result we optimized for was a landing page load for a luxury boutique hotel blog post. Results began in normal Facebook fashion but then actually began to get less expensive as the algorithm went to work.

During the test, we met with the hotel marketing manager involved to discuss progress and she immediately remarked on the potential for this process to deliver insights for other advertising.

“We could use this to help with print and display ads.”

Alone, Facebook Dynamic Creative is a powerful feature that we’re confident will improve the Facebook Advertising efforts of boutique hotels everywhere. When combined with additional tools, there are even greater possibilities for building a more meaningful communication channel designed to attract and retain guests.

EU ePrivacy Law

The EU ePrivacy Law is due to come into effect in May 2018. It’s clear by the increasing chatter on Twitter and elsewhere that marketers in every industry, whether based in the EU or based elsewhere with European customers, are beginning to take note if they haven’t already.

Also known as the ‘cookie law’ the EU ePrivacy Law mainly takes aim at the excessive use of third party cookies that has plagued the digital marketing industry and resulted in endless retargeting, among other bad practice.

(Remember that time you looked at buying a new mattress online and proceeded to see nothing but adverts for that same mattress for months after you bought one elsewhere?)

The EU ePrivacy Law is not to be confused with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that also comes into force at the same time.

Implications for Boutique Hotels

Why is this important to boutique hotel marketing? Use of third party cookies will require the explicit consent of the website user.

Therefore if you or a website plugin you use intends to place them, you’ll need to ensure users confirm their permission for you to drop cookies with some form of visible notification.

Moreover, the draft legislation suggests that a breach of the law may result in fines of up to 4% of annual worldwide turnover. Some other types of cookies will not be affected, here’s a basic overview of the different types:

  • First-party cookie – these are dropped by the domain the user is visiting and are generally used for analytics and defining the user experience. Explicit consent for these will likely be required but they are comparably easy to explain in terms of benefits to the guest.
  • Third-party cookie – these are dropped by a different domain to the one the user is visiting and are typically used for retargeting and behavioural advertising. Consent will be required and it may be harder to justify to your guests why you include them.
  • Session cookie – these are temporary cookies that link the actions of a user during a browser session. They’re considered less intrusive and consent is unlikely to be required.
  • Persistent cookie – as the name suggests, these cookies remain on your computer for much longer. They are often used for analytics and activity tracking. They do have an expiration date but this can be as much as 20 years away.
  • Secure cookie – these are used as part of secure data transfers and are only transmitted within HTTPS. Consent is unlikely to be required for these because they are part of a secure online experience.

What about online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Many hotel marketers are clearly hoping this new legislation will erode some of the technological power these giant firms wield. We used Cookiepedia to check just how many cookies these sites use. reveals just how many cookies two of the big OTAs are using.

Treat this as a reminder to review data security and electronic privacy at your hotel. What happens to data you collect from guests, how is it stored and who has access?

It’s a good time to check that your hotel website is properly secured. Reducing the number of cookies used will also have a positive effect on the load speed of your website – and we know website speed is a key factor in search engine rankings.

Investigation into Hotel Booking Websites

In a press release from the UK Government’s Competition and Market Authority (CMA) in late October, Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA announced details of an investigation into the business practices of hotel booking websites with some damning concerns:

“The CMA is concerned about the clarity, accuracy and presentation of information on sites, which could mislead people, stop them finding the best deal and potentially break consumer law.”

The list of issues is extensive and the authority has asked all sides for information and opinions. If you wish to share a relevant experience with them,  you can do so here before December 15th.

Many of the problems that the CMA has suspicion of will not be news to the hotel industry. Complaints from hoteliers have come up before, including accusations of bait-and-switch tactics by Expedia in California. The main practices under examination by the CMA include:

  • Hidden charges – how different is the price shown initially to the one the guest pays by the end of the initial transaction or the end of their stay?
  • Discount claims – are these bogus or based on prices that existed for a short period only?
  • Pressure selling – is there really only one room left with 15 people looking at it simultaneously?
  • Search results ranking – to what extent these are based on the commissions paid by the hotels?

At this stage it’s unclear what the likely outcomes of the investigation will be. However, the authority is unambiguous in its recent advice for online comparison tools so we can logically expect to see something similar in the findings of this report. They must be:

  • Plain in their description of important issues (e.g how they make their money)
  • Truthful and fact-based in the information provided
  • Reliable and accountable regarding how they use personal data
  • Simple to use