Tennessee may be best known for its country music roots in Nashville, but the state also attracts tourists looking to see the Smoky Mountains, caves and a growing food and dining scene.
To convey all of those activities, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development worked with agency VML to create a few hundred short clips that are then stitched together as pre-roll ads that target users based on thousands of bits of data collected on them across the web.
"A lot of places have one thing that they can offer—like a beach or state parks—that's the main focus, but for Tennessee the state is so diverse that there's a lot of different things that appeal to a lot of different people," said Allison Pierce, group creative director at VML. "It takes people a long time to plan their vacations, it's like 45 days of planning, and we wanted to first get someone interested and then send them down this funnel."
To do so, the agency worked with Spongecell, a creative programmatic startup to serve up 2,000 variations of 45-second clips. The ads primarily target folks in nearby big cities like Atlanta, Chicago and St. Louis and vary based on someone's interests.
For example, a single 30-something living in Louisville, Ky., who subscribes to Outdoor Magazine and bought concert tickets in the past year may be served an ad promoting Knoxville's hiking and biking trails.
And a mom in Atlanta who recently searched for horseback riding and went to a theme park in the past year could be targeted with creative showing Dollywood's water park or the Tennessee Aquarium.
"Our targeting has evolved over the past few years since we started working on this business to be more specific to the type of person," noted Megan Davey, VML's associate channel director.
"We do start with a base targeting and then from there we're utilizing purchase-based targeting, interest targeting, contextual targeting, online behavior [and] past travel behavior to understand who that user is and serve them the right combination of clips in the form of a video," Davey said.