The Star (St. Lucia) - Business Week - - FINANCIAL TIMES -

BD is now in the busi­ness of what Jauncey calls “na­tion brand­ing . . . how does a coun­try po­si­tion it­self for a fu­ture gen­er­a­tion of trav­eller?” The com­pany’s cre­ative team trav­els to des­ti­na­tions with drones and cam­eras to shoot im­agery for clients to use in old and new me­dia, of­ten also shar­ing that con­tent as “paid part­ner­ship” posts on the main BD feed. Jauncey shows me a video that BD made for Ber­muda. The minute-long story of an at­trac­tive young cou­ple from New York vis­it­ing the is­land is as slick as any­thing I’ve seen on prime­time TV.

Part­ner­ships like this in­vari­ably pro­duce clips of vary­ing lengths as well as im­agery for use on- and off­line. So when does an In­sta­gram ac­count be­come a brand­ing agency like any other? “I think Beau­ti­ful Des­ti­na­tions are very good at what they do, but that’s all they are,” says Paul Charles, head of Lon­don-based travel PR firm the PC Agency. “They’re just us­ing good im­agery to boost a brand.” This is not, un­sur­pris­ingly, how Jauncey sees it. He says no other agency or brand matches BD’s so­cial ex­per­tise or fol­low­ing. “We have enor­mous ca­pa­bil­ity to help brands de­cide what plat­forms to be on,” he in­sists.

As new clients got in touch af­ter the Dubai gig, Jauncey says BD be­gan to get smarter in the way it used the data that its main ac­count gen­er­ated. He re­cruited data sci­en­tists to build “a ro­bust pre­dic­tion en­gine” to show a client, for ex­am­ple, which of a se­lec­tion of pro­mo­tional im­ages would do best on dif­fer­ent plat­forms. Jauncey de­clines to de­scribe ex­actly how th­ese al­go­rithms work, but he has ex­plained pre­vi­ously how the “dig­i­tal fin­ger­print” of an image — its colour, hue, bright­ness, and per­cent­age of per­son ver­sus land­scape — can be mea­sured against its per­for­mance to start es­tab­lish­ing pat­terns.

If the in­dus­try has been slow to get smart about so­cial me­dia pro­mo­tion, many travel brands have been in­flu­enced them­selves to get In­sta­gram ready.

Paul Charles points to one naked ex­am­ple in Mar­rakesh, where lux­ury ho­tel La Sul­tana in­stalled a large empty frame on its roof to, well, frame the At­las Moun­tains. It begged to be In­sta­grammed, but “the prob­lem of course is that there’s no de­fin­i­tive proof that that has boosted sales,” Charles adds.

Colin Nagy, a travel colum­nist based in New York and the head of strat­egy at global ad agency Fred & Farid, be­lieves the third phase of In­sta­gram travel will be more so­phis­ti­cated mar­ket­ing tools that drill into mono­lithic fol­lower counts, and new tech­nol­ogy link­ing ads di­rectly to book­ings. “So ‘here’s a tar­geted deal based on your data and here’s how you book right now’,” he ex­plains. “Right now you can have a bazil­lion fol­low­ers but how many are real, how many have the means to spend?”

In the mean­time, Jauncey says

BD’s power is to pro­vide back­ground in­spi­ra­tion, as well as its di­rect reaches for wal­lets. And be­yond his opaque al­go­rith­mic ap­proach, he says that find­ing a novel an­gle is cru­cial (that and shoot­ing at sun­rise or sun­set). Back on his own feed, he shows me a re­cent photo from a trip to Jor­dan, where he spoke at a con­fer­ence about so­cial me­dia and “re­silience” in tourism. BD has worked with Jor­dan to help it re­verse a steep de­cline in vis­i­tor num­bers dur­ing the cri­sis in neigh­bour­ing Syria.

In some down­time af­ter the con­fer­ence, Jauncey hired a young guide for a tour of Pe­tra. The boy led him up to a rocky promon­tory with a view down on the Trea­sury, Pe­tra’s most fa­mous — and pho­tographed — tem­ple. The boy laid a rug on the rock for Jauncey to sit on. A photo of him taken with an iPhone of the scene got more than 40,000 likes. For Lina Annab, Jor­dan’s min­is­ter of tourism and an­tiq­ui­ties, the photo was a bonus be­yond the BD cam­paign, but she’ll take it. “In to­day’s so­cial me­dia-driven world, a pic­ture is worth tens of thou­sands of en­gage­ments,” she says.

As well as shar­ing nice pho­tos, BD has be­come a kind of ad­ver­tis­ing and brand­ing agency. It uses slick video, data and pro­pri­etary al­go­rithms to boost dig­i­tal au­di­ences — par­tic­u­larly on In­sta­gram — for brands in­clud­ing Mar­riott, Hil­ton, Shangri-La and var­i­ous tourism boards

Jeremy Jauncey of Beau­ti­ful Des­ti­na­tions © @beau­ti­fuldes­ti­na­tions/In­sta­gram

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