NEW: Launching a new travel brand with Machine Learning PPC during Covid-19

RED Online Marketing has won the prestigious European Search Awards 2022 with this case in the category ‘Best PPC Case in Travel’. Together with our client &Olives Travel, we wrote this comprehensive case about the launch of the new travel label, during the COVID-19 pandemic, using SEA, Display & Video Advertising.

Former Isropa Reizen decided to transform their brand into &Olives Travel and enlarge their Middle-east focussed product offer with holiday packages to the Mediterranee in 2019. The rebranding was planned from the start of 2020. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent measures had declined the popularity of flight holidays this time. This impeded the brand introduction for the Dutch market. Gradually demand raised and the flight travel industry recovered during 2021 and helped &Olives Travel to launch their brand.

The new &Olives Travel brand broadened their product offerings with holidays to destinations Italy, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus – all around the Mediterranean Sea. Based on a new audience: the 35+ Dutch couples who like to book cosy accommodations and travels to make their lives richer with experiences. 

The campaigns aim to generate awareness for the new brand – by standing out with authentic videos that claimed the authenticity of &Olives Travel holidays – and driving conversions in terms of bookings by using a demand-driven digital marketing strategy with Search in Google and Microsoft and Display remarketing follow-up after visiting the website.

The level playing field changed as a whole – related to the situation as Isropa Reizen – with a new product offering, a bumpy market demand and a new audience. The PPC driven strategy by machine learning delivered the success of scaling-up (using our own “opschaalstrategie” for travel organizations) rapidly within this continuously changing travel market.


A Brand Transition Means A New & Extra Audience

One of the main challenges was to reach a new audience and meanwhile still connect with the former audience. The former brand Isropa Reizen aimed to sell travel packages – main destinations Israel and Jordan – to an older audience then &Olives Travel aims for. &Olives Travel still aims for the former Isropa Reizen to sell the Middle-East holidays from their current portfolio.

The “Dutch holiday market” investigation of Whooz was used to define more characteristics for these audiences. The audience changed from “Werelds & Cultureel” (Worldly & Cultural) into “Stad & Strand” (City & Beach) based on the investigation of Dutch buyer persona’s.


Connecting The Customer Journey

The marketing strategy is designed and based on the Five Stages of Travel model of Google. This model describes all stages of the customer journey, especially designed for travel and leisure organizations. For each phase we implemented a different conversion action set within Google Ads.

Reach new audiences with YouTube Brand Awareness with a Reach target and simultaneously driving Google Display Campaigns with a Traffic target.

Conversion action set: target-ROAS optimized on “No Bounce” conversions

Executing Search Campaigns with Search Partners to increase findability

Conversion action set: target-ROAS optimized on “Visiting Accommodation Page”, “View Price” and “Starting Booking Funnel” conversions 

Stage 3 BOOKING:

Non-converters were shown dynamic Display remarketing campaigns – this campaign showed accommodations and travel offers based on individual website behaviour

Conversion action set: target-ROAS optimized on “Booking”

5 stages of travel

Combining Search, Video & Display PCC Across The Customer Journey

Videos Ads:

YouTube In-Stream ads were used to increase brand awareness. Link to all videos:

Search Ads:

To reach the right audience with our adcopy, we have used several brand-specific assets and used Responsive Search Ads to find and show the right assets to the right audience. 

Specific copywriting in Dutch:

    • Kleinschalig – this means small-scaled
  • …naar wens aan te passen – this means customized

Using the & sign for brand recognition:
& Noord-Portugal

Display Ads:

Retargeting Display Ads showed the accommodation or holiday the consumer visited on the website of &Olives Travel. 

Specific copywriting in Dutch:

  • Geldteruggarantie means Money-Back-Guarantee

Using the & sign for brand recognition: & Geldteruggarantie

Destination &Olives Travel


Scaling-up With A Machine Learning-based PCC Strategy

Hagakure set-up

All Search campaigns were set-up based on the Hagakure set-up method

Keyword Strategy

The target group was new and we did not know all the keywords that suited this target group. By using broad match keywords, in combination with tROAS bids and the right intent signals in the form of conversions, we were able to feed the algorithm exactly right. To reach the new target group, we expanded the Search Campaigns by adding new keywords – suiting the demand of this audience. We added keywords like fly & drive, couleur locale, small-scale holidays, off the beaten track, agriturismo etcetera to reach the right people with the new &Olives Travel holiday offer. 


In order to grow as a brand, we have used many broad keywords, but in ad copy we have focused on themes that interest the new target group of &Olives Travel. Culture, sustainable, small-scale, authentic, unique, away from the crowd. This made us unique in the auction – in which general larger tour operators such as TUI, Corendon and Sunweb also bid – and let &Olives Travel stand out.

Feed Management With Our Partner Channable
The product offer changes a lot during the runtime of the campaigns. Both in volume and other matters such as price. The range of accommodations was scaled up during our collaboration. We knew this in advance, so we chose to work feed-based in combination with Channable as feed manager. In this way we were sure that the right offer was in the campaigns – both for Search and Display remarketing.

Attribution Strategy

The choice for the position-based attribution model was a conscious choice, as a result of which more value was assigned to both the first and last click. Because there was both a growth and conversion ambition (unknown brand), the first click was extremely important.

Automated Bidding Strategies

A minor challenge was how to spot a signal, which we could use with an automatic bidding strategy. By using conversion action set,, we were able to feed the campaigns with the right intent signals. Example: by adding the conversion group “Starting Booking Funnel” (conversions: “enter conversion booking step 1 + conversion booking”) to the Display dynamic remarketing campaign, we nurtured the potential bookers to take the next step and we gave the Google Ads algorithm the right signals. 

With target-ROAS bidding, we were able to take maximum advantage of the automatic bidding strategy – by targeting the value of the intent signals. We had too little knowledge and experience with the response ourselves – because we had to reach a new target group + we were in Covid-19 year – and therefore relied on Google’s algorithm when we could give the right intent signals. This allowed us to let Google run its course on device, demographics, intent, orientation behavior.

Not Only Covid-19 Was Our Challenge

Challenge 1: 

Search volume for keywords such as couleur locale were too low. With only the context of the keywords, the volume became too small. The target audience also uses keywords such as holiday greece to find what they are looking for, but &Olives Travel does not have the right offer for all holiday seekers in Greece. 

Why not? The range of &Olives Travel is small-scale – a villa with a swimming pool in a deserted place, for example. Guests looking for an apartment to go out in Hersonissos will not find what they are looking for with &Olives Travel.

Advertising on broad keywords – in combination with a target-ROAS bid strategy and the conversion action sets for the DREAMING and PLANNING phase  – helped us out to increase volume in terms of bookings and revenue on a cost-effective way.

Challenge 2: 

Covid-19 brought a lot of insecurity for consumers. It was not possible to travel for a long time. &Olives Travel provided certainty by introducing the “Money Back Guarantee”. This was communicated alongside Search, Display and Video campaigns as an asset and ad extension.

Results & Evaluation

  • Increasing brand awareness for the new brand &Olives Travel
  • Driving conversions in terms of bookings
  • 1.263% YoY growth in percentages

Performance results vs. target:

  • Expected generated bookings versus budget exceeded by 364%.
  • Expected revenue generated exceeded budget by 479%.
  • Expected generated return on target exceeded target by 64%.

Reach KPIs:

  • 19,000,000 ad impressions in the year 2021.
  • Searches for brand name increased by 676% in June 2021 compared to January 2021.


The strategic choice to build the brand in destinations around the Mediterranean has paid off. This combined with offering luxurious accommodations helped take advantage of changing market demand due to Covid-19 travel market trends. The launch of the &Olives brand was a bull’s eye, at just the right time.

Reducing dependence on destinations around the Middle East, while retaining the specialism, has also worked out well. For example, &Olives can now deal with destinations where there are Covid-19 restrictions or other different travel blocades by offering holiday packages to other destinations. The continuously changing consideration set in terms of destinations has been a huge challenge in this regard.

The specialism of off-the-beaten-track accommodations – combined with personal contact during booking and travelling – have ensured that the concept has caught on.

Within a few months, through the right monitoring, marketing strategy, being adaptive in scaling-up, we have created an online marketing strategy that has been important for scaling the organization as a whole. This led to 364% more bookings and 479% more revenue than budgeted and this led to more growth in employees, more results and more resources.

Machine Learning PPC Saves Businesses

In the acquisition, the percentage of PPC was 58% of all inbound traffic. By putting the “opschaalstrategie” (scale-up strategy) into practice – with day-by-day and week-by-week data-minded evaluation and optimization – we have been allowed growing bookings so rapidly together with &Olives Travel.

What is really unique is that from day 1 the account had a Hagakure set-up with automated bidding, 100% RSA and 100% broad keyword coverage. For a new brand – with relatively few conversions (related to the travel market) within the account – being able to grow so quickly has surprised ourselves and &Olives Travel itself. We believed in this from day 1, but to see this executed with this enormous growth is simply lovely. 

This is really unique not only did we set up a super innovative Google Ads account, but we have moved the whole company forward through these PPC campaigns. We are very proud to have helped &Olives Travel grow this fast in difficult times of market recovery from COVID-19 in travel. This was never happened without this PPC campaign or without the cooperation between RED Online Marketing (and their travel marketing expertise) and &Olives Travel. 

For sure.

“ The PPC campaign helped us enormously in translating the company’s mission and vision into driving bookings. Moreover, thank to the flexibility, we have always been able to scale-up quickly “

Madelon Seignette

Managing Director a.i. &Olives Travel

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