By Robecta Ma, VP Marketing, Cathay Pacific Airways
At Cathay Pacific, we’re excited to explore ways to build digital experiences that let vacation and business travelers learn—and feel—what sets us apart. While choosing an airline comes down to price for many flyers, there’s no substitute for our decades of experience, so we work hard to maintain our long legacy of leadership in customer service, reliability, and environmental stewardship. And every Cathay Pacific ticket comes with our intimate knowledge of the markets and cultures we serve.
Last year, in partnership with AR/VR platform provider OmniVirt, we embarked on our first foray into virtual reality to help people envision our premium airport and inflight experiences from San Francisco to Hong Kong. Through this unique 360° experiential platform, we are able take our rich and interactive VR assets and make them available to more people across multiple platforms—particularly on mobile.
We replicated the original VR experience by creating 360° ad units that let viewers explore business class check-in, our signature airport lounge at SFO, and our award-winning business class cabin. As with the original content, viewers could click on hotspots to dive deeper into the Cathay Pacific experience, from lie-flat beds in business class to private showers in our arrivals lounge.
Through our 360° experiential platform, we can take our rich, interactive VR assets and make them available to more people across multiple platforms— particularly on mobile
A “Book Now” button is omnipresent throughout.
Our 360° ad units were the centerpiece of the integrated campaign to promote Cathay Pacific as the leading airline for travel to Hong Kong and Asia. As part of the campaign, we also published a series of insider blog posts about Hong Kong, including features on secret spots and interesting side trips designed to entice vacationers and encourage business travelers to extend their stays. We initially ran the campaign for six months on social and digital channels on programmatic, network, and publisher platforms, with fresh content introduced every three weeks.
When it comes to promoting Cathay Pacific in North America, we have a set of unique opportunities and challenges for which our campaign was well-tailored. We serve an array of gateway cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Vancouver, Toronto, Boston, and soon, Washington, DC—but there’s still a large swath of flyers that has yet to experience our service firsthand. Even so, we have a big advantage as we look to launch service to new cities and add frequency in others: Great word-of-mouth from our devoted travelers. We’ve seen how our 360° campaign amplifies our reputation in a way that maps to our brand vision of Life Well Travelled and our “softly spoken, strongly felt” voice.
How did we do this? This was our best performing digital brand campaign to date. Not only did we heighten brand awareness, but the campaign also drove strong lower-funnel performance—and the 360° expandable units outperformed our previous banner ads (and the industry average, too) with a .33 percent CTR. On publisher sites such as Conde Nast Traveler, viewers spent an average of 20.8 seconds engaging with the ads, with the 300x600 unit driving an even higher average of 27 seconds per viewer.
We also executed a 3rd-party brand research study about the campaign that showed how we drove strong lift in many key metrics, most notably unaided awareness (+27 percent) and favorability (+25 percent). Campaign exposure significantly increased respondents’ preference for Cathay Pacific as an airline (+12 percent)—particularly among women and those in higher income brackets.
Having hit on a successful mix of immersive content and widespread delivery that reaches frequent flyers and would-be travelers alike, we’ll continue expanding our campaign, anchored by the 360° units. Our results to date have helped us refine our strategy and more precisely define our target audience while sparking creative thinking about how to use this immersive technology to showcase our world-class travel experience.
The airline industry was built and continues to thrive on innovation and giant leaps of technology. At Cathay Pacific, we’re excited to draw upon our proud legacy and tell our story in exciting new ways. We look forward to making the world a better place, and to welcoming more delighted fliers onboard!