The Intersection of Data & Creativity

How Personalization is Changing the Rules of Engagement
by: Wendy Olson Killion

I’ve attended Destination International’s annual convention for many years now and always find the time well-spent. Connecting with such a diverse and passionate group of travel and destination leaders from all over allows our teams to experience new perspectives and share the different challenges we’re working to solve in our industry. It was no different last month when we convened in St. Louis for informative conversations and engaging sessions.  

I had the pleasure of speaking about the power of data and its critical role in everything we do in business, and as marketers. Every brand has a story—that we know—but what I heard from speaking with all of you at this year’s convention, and with our advertising partners, is that breaking through with that story in today’s content-heavy world often seems impossible. But with data, it’s a challenge that we can face head-on by creating meaningful experiences for consumers.

Working in travel, we all know firsthand that planning and booking travel is a highly-emotional process, as well as a highly-considered, highly-researched purchase. A lot of time is spent with online content, across a variety of platforms and devices, resulting in complex research and consideration phases. It also means there is great opportunity to inspire and influence consumers along the way, if we can appeal to both the head and heart. Consumers want to find their own inspiration across the platforms and resources they trust. With smart, actionable data, consumers can have a more authentic voice throughout the shopping journey, and make personalized decisions based on their preferences, attitudes and more.

To do this, we must know our audience, so we turn to data. We analyze our first-party data to understand how our audience travels and shops for travel. We couple those insights with custom research we commission to further understand the how and why of their travel decisions. Then we test with real travelers–through focus groups and innovation labs–to understand what resonates and drives behaviors. Insights from these myriad data sources change the way we view creativity, as well as the role of data in strategy and execution, revealing a significant opportunity to create meaningful engagement with travelers.

A proven approach is to lead with the creative element, then use data to confirm our hypothesis. This is where the real magic happens and how we are increasingly able to help our marketing partners reach the right consumer, at the right time, with the right creative message, on the right platform. Advertising should always add value to the consumer experience, and digital advertising enables us to do this in a variety of ways.  

In addition to using a range of smart, actionable insights to inform your storytelling strategy, building feedback loops into your campaigns is just as important. Technology-driven personalization creates an amazing data feedback loop, and when done correctly, is organic to the campaign and audience engagement.

While there may always be voices within the creative industry that see the ever-increasing influence of data on the advertising industry as negative–that it somehow diminishes creativity or sanitizes the business of cool, innovative advertising–at the end of the day, data (which empowers personalization) improves the consumer experience. Ultimately, data helps us get to the heart of what the consumer cares about.

I welcome the opportunity to continue this conversation with you and how data and creativity can help address your destination’s unique needs and challenges. You can reach out to our team at any time (via or follow our blog for new research, insights and case studies. And until then, I’m sure we’ll meet again along the road soon.

About the Author

Wendy Olson Killion
Vice President of Business Development
Expedia Group Media Solutions
Wendy oversees marketing partner relations globally, leading teams around the world in the creation and implementation of innovative digital media campaigns across the portfolio of Expedia Group travel brands. She previously directed global product development and marketing for the entire suite of advertising products, including display, email, social and mobile solutions. Before joining Expedia Group, Wendy led product management of the emerging channels and brands at, including their mobile offerings. Wendy is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and lives in Seattle with her family.