The Telegraph, Travel and a Tom Hiddleston

We’ve all heard the sayings in the last few years that TV, both stateside and here in the UK, is in the ascendance.

Recent months have seen big budget, trans-Atlantic productions, such as The Night Manager (the most expensive drama in BBC history at £20m), and epic historical saga War and Peace (£8m production) hit our screens with a vengeance.

These mega-productions are drawing not only celebrated silver screen actors to the small screen, but are driving increased viewing figures for TV in general, with The Night Manager averaging 6.2 million viewers during its 6 week run.

So what does this all have to with digital marketing and, indeed, the daily newspaper The Telegraph?

In researching this blog post, which was originally going to be about how brands are capitalising on the growth of big-budget programmes, The Telegraph kept popping up in search results and twitter feeds as a winner in the TV search trend stakes. This post will look at the recent opportunities The Telegraph has taken advantage of, and look at how brands could replicate this success.

Let’s take a look at our first example; the aforementioned phenomenon, The Night Manager.


The Night Manager

With the series taking place across a number of glamorous (and some not so glamorous) locations, the broadcast period of The Night Manager (and the weeks afterwards) inspired a great deal of related search traffic. This included viewers seeking images of Tom Hiddleston, and also those wondering if there’d be a second series.

But it wasn’t only these direct topics that were of interest to searchers; the products and destinations featured in the series got their fair share of search queries too.

When I think about the possible reasons for this, it’s easy to see how the sleek attire of the principal protagonists and the luxury locations lend themselves to daydreaming viewers. After all, they are watching the series during the cold, stormy winter months and can imagine themselves living the life of luxury in stylish, sun-drenched locations.

Let’s look at few topics in particular that have seen uplifts in search volume.

Majorca Villas

Below shows the uplift in impressions for a travel retailer for terms related to Majorca villas (one of the principal locations in the series) over the broadcast period of The Night Manager.

We can see defined peaks around the broadcast of episodes that featured the Majorcan villas location. However, these impressions and boosts in search volume can be converted into real traffic with the help of clever planning and quick action.


Surprisingly, it was not travel and villa retailers that managed to capitalise on this story. Instead, this opportunity was taken by the newspapers. The Telegraph, in particular, took the bull by the horns and utilised the increased interest in this location to drive traffic to 3rd party websites via affiliate links.

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This content also serves to promote other Telegraph travel articles and location guides.

Other news outlets that covered this topic were Radio Times and The Guardian. This example presents a prime opportunity lost for travel/villas to ramp up paid media spend, write relevant and focused content, and create conversation on social media off the back of a TV show.

A missed opportunity for Marks and Spencer

In the days and weeks following the airing of a scene in which a principal character, known for wearing expensive designer wardrobe pieces, is shown wearing its brand of underwear, Marks and Spencer did, well, nothing.

Once again, the traditional news outlets, this time the Daily Mail and the Mirror, covered this topic with gusto.

This was certainly an opportunity missed by Marks and Spencer, which, as we have written about previously, has features on its website dedicated to editorial content and ‘picks’. So what could Marks & Spencer have done differently? We’ve created some tips for next time this happens…

  • Add the product and at least a short story to the Editor’s Picks which feature across the website (shown below)Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 10.09.22
  • Monitor brand mentions and tweet about the product during the show, and follow up the morning after so people can find the featured product
  • Create a promotion/competition around the product

War and Peace….and city breaks

When epic saga War and Peace debuted on our screens just after Christmas, travel brands were in peak holiday booking season. However, search terms around ‘visits to St Petersburg’ jumped big time during January and this presented a great opportunity for Russian Holiday brands to make some noise and capitalise on a new audience for its offerings.

Unfortunately, not many appeared to have made the most of this opportunity.

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Big jump in searches for holidays and trips to St Petersburg
Once again, The Telegraph jumped in with great, timely content, the day before the first episode (forward planning – the production was announced in 2014 after all) with a comprehensive guide to the city of St Petersburg.

They didn’t stop there, but went as far as to use this content to promote a reader offer.Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.19.29Picture1

At a time when lots of people are talking about Russian destinations, the largest Russia holiday operators ended up promoting The Telegraph’s article, instead of gaining the traffic and brand-awareness for themselves through valuable on-trend content.

As you’ll see below, Regent Holidays were in fact featured in one of these articles – as the operator of one of the 5 best tours of Tolstoy’s Russia – so they did gain valuable publicity and probably quite a bit of referral traffic from people landing on The Telegraph.

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But it’s unlikely this was a planned and meditated strategy. More likely, Regent Holiday’s PR team responded to a media request from The Telegraph’s writer asking for Tolstoy themed tours and pitched one of the best options available. This is a great effort from the PR team. But wouldn’t it have been awesome if the PR team flagged the trend with the onsite content team and they complimented this feature with their own branded piece of content which they could promote too?

Finally, on 8th March, more than a month after the series had finished airing in the UK, Regent finally put together a page that addressed the demand for visits to Tolstoy’s great cities.

By this point, much of the buzz around War and Peace had died down and the telegraph had already run a series of 3 articles on the topic:

This screams of a well researched and planned campaign to capitalise on the popularity of a TV series, and The Telegraph have done a great job. So this leads me to actions, and what we can actually learn from The Telegraph.

What can we learn from The Telegraph and how can we replicate their success?

Plan ahead
Most major series are announced months in advance, so put relevant dates in the diary and keep an eye on build-up and noise around the topic in the lead-up.

Be comprehensive
Where possible, make content comprehensive and useful. Yes, you may be writing a feature ahead of a traffic peak, but don’t underestimate the power a long-form piece of content can have in the visibility stakes. That articles might bring you thousands of visitors in the years to come.

A joined up approach

  • Make sure different departments and teams are informing you of any opportunities. One assumes the Marks and Spencer PR department must have known their underwear would be featured in the Night Manager?
  • Keep an eye on Journo requests from publications who might be planning articles and features to take advantage of these topics – just as we saw Regent Holidays did above. But don’t stop here – use them as a source of inspiration for your own content – Haro is a free platform you can sign up for which might be a good place to start, as well as #JournoRequest on twitter

Use your strengths

Take advantage of the insider knowledge that news outlets won’t have. Use in-country insights, opinions and tips in the case of destination based topics. You will be in a much better place to create authoritative and expertise-based content than commissioned writers.

Track and understand
Create Calls To Action (CTAs) either within or at the foot of the post, and set up ways to track users that have engaged with this content to understand how this content works for your brand.

Monitor Google Alerts and Trends
Never underestimate the power of a Google Alert in keeping you informed on news about the latest TV series announcement. Also check out Google Trends’ Rising and Top trends, see what specific phrases people are using, and act on them (shown below is the example from the day after the first episode of War and Peace aired).

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The key point to remember from all of this is that your brand may not consider an article or blog post about a TV show to be a real conversion path, but if other brands and news outlets write about it instead, you’ll be missing out on a potentially relevant audience. Don’t think that you can jump on the bandwagon later, you may well have missed the boat!