HomeAway leverages value in travel campaign

With the economy making for a rather bleak summer travel forecast, HomeAway hired MM2 to help drive traffic to its flagship US vacation rental site Homeaway.com and generate leads.

Campaign: Save Our Summer Vacation
PR Team: HomeAway (Austin, TX) and MM2 Public Relations (Dallas, TX)
Duration: June 2009 – August 2009
Budget: $65,000

With the economy making for a rather bleak summer travel forecast, HomeAway hired MM2 to help drive traffic to its flagship US vacation rental site Homeaway.com and generate leads. Eileen Buesing, director of PR at HomeAway, credits MM2 with the “Save Our Summer Vacation” concept, which highlighted the value of vacation rentals and that they can be less expensive than a hotel.

“The campaign leveraged economic news to drive awareness,” Buesing says. “It was a clever and fun concept that got the message across right away.”

Strategy
Larry Meltzer, principle and creative director for MM2, says it planned to position HomeAway as on the side of consumers. It launched SaveOurSummerVacation.com as a complementary subsite to house a contest to find people most in need of a summer vacation, along with a petition to designate a “National Vacation Day.”

Syndicated family travel writer Eileen Ogintz served as a spokesperson, discussing the benefits of taking a vacation and money-saving travel tips with media, bloggers, and through the campaign's Web site.

Tactics
The subsite launched June 1, featuring advice from Ogintz, the contest, the petition, and a real-time US map showing locations of people who signed the petition.

The contest required consumers to identify a vacation home on HomeAway.com and use a blog post, YouTube video, or Flickr photo essay to explain why the company should save their summer vacation. Buesing says contestants were “highly encouraged” to use social networking sites – especially Facebook and Twitter – to get friends and family to vote for their entry. Internal judges chose winners from the 15 finalists that got the most votes. Prizes included a $10,000 grand-prize trip, and two $5,000 runner-up trips.

“The viral effect is so important,” says Buesing, adding that people could only vote once. “Allowing people to have a voice broadens awareness because it brings so many more people in.”

HomeAway has a Facebook page, but Buesing says it wasn't fully integrated due to lack of time and resources. Instead HomeAway's Twitter account was used to post campaign updates.

Media targets included lifestyle and travel outlets and general consumer. The team also targeted mommy bloggers. An SMT, RMT, and multimedia news release were circulated. Meltzer notes that the SMT prompted an increase in petition signatures that were immediately visible on the online map.

Results
The petition drew more than 3,800 signatures. Contest entries totaled more than 1,300. More than 63,500 people voted on finalists. Meltzer says the grand-prize winner pulled in about 50,000 votes using Facebook and Twitter.

The campaign garnered more than 1,200 print, broadcast, and online placements, with audience reach of nearly 150 million. Outlets covering the story included Fox affiliates in Seattle and Denver, Orlando Sentinel, The Baltimore Sun, TravelGirl.com.

“The campaign way exceeded expectations, especially with the voting,” Buesing says.

Future
HomeAway and MM2 will continue working together. Next up is a campaign focused on homeowners to drive new vacation rental listings to Homeaway.com.

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