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Frances Dickens, CEO of Astus Group, On Media Barter for Hotels

Jerome Smail 5 September 2014

FrancesIntroducing media barter: why hotels are making the upgrade

By Frances Dickens, CEO and co-founder of Astus Group

It’s more essential than ever for businesses to find exciting ways to communicate with audiences and share brand messaging. For hotels and companies in the hospitality and leisure sectors, which provide quality experiences for customers, the story they portray must be especially enticing and imaginative.

Unfortunately for many, the marketing landscape is so diverse (and expensive) that it often has to be narrowed down, leaving many avenues unexplored. But what businesses don’t realise is their marketing budgets could be working harder and allow them to plan more dynamic campaigns.

While the term “media barter” seems like more jargon to add to our ever-expanding marketing glossaries, it’s one that’s worth taking note of.

Media barter is a process that allows hotels and restaurant groups, among a spectrum of other businesses, to leverage their existing inventory to make their media and marketing budgets go further. Hotel room capacity can be used as part payment for the media needed to drive businesses’ marketing campaigns, thereby costing less than if paid for only in cash.

Media barter agencies remarket and use the capacity to gain further exposure for the business at zero risk. So, as well as allowing businesses to save money, create budgets and experiment with new, exciting marketing methods, media barter opens up previously untapped distribution channels.

You might wonder why you haven’t heard about media barter before. Integrating it is a very gradual process, requiring media barter agencies to gain a clear understanding of a client’s media, marketing and distribution needs before assessing where exactly media barter fits in. Building this relationship takes time.

However, the greatest delay in media barter hitting the mainstream was actually that the model on which it was founded was failing and had to be transformed in order to succeed.

Before founding Astus, I had worked at a US-owned media barter company. In contrast with the positive reputation media barter now enjoys, it was then seen as tarnished and untrustworthy. The business model in practice at the time involved advertisers exchanging their products for trade credits, which in theory could be used to purchase media. All too often they couldn’t be redeemed and advertisers were left out of pocket, with many refusing to give barter a second look.

The transparent system we have introduced focuses on delivery first and making sure advertisers get the media they want before relinquishing their product as part payment.

Many industries, including the hospitality sector, are starting to see the benefits of the industry, which is why the barter industry is booming. To give scale to media barter’s success, Astus has experienced ten years of consecutive growth since being founded in 2003, with annual turnover rates of £132.2m in 2013.

With companies from SMEs to international corporations choosing to get in on the action, including the global hotel brand Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, media barter is proving itself to be a vital way to maximise media and marketing spend.