Interviews

Jeremy Ellis

Head of Marketing, TUI UK and Ireland

Ben Somerset-How

Client Director

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Tom Holmes talks to Jeremy Ellis, Head of Marketing, TUI UK and Ireland.

Jeremy has overall responsibility for the management of Thomson and First Choice brands including leading brand strategic development, brand identity, advertising, retail POS, direct marketing, eCRM, loyalty management and customer nurture.

Before this he was Head of Innovation and CRM at TUI UK, controlling all Thomson & First Choice lifestyle product portfolio including proposition, product specification, delivery and marketing. He has held various senior positions looking after Thomson advertising and brand management, CRM, Publishing, Product Development.

 

Creativebrief: As Head of Marketing TUI UK, what are your key responsibilities?

Jeremy Sinclair: As marketing jobs go, I don’t think they come much better than managing two great holiday brands – Thomson and First Choice. Having worked in Thomson/TUI for 20 years, I still believe that holidays are the best product to sell. I’ve always been passionate about what we do and what our brands stand for and this role gives me full control of developing the brand strategy across TUI UK along with all the offline communications.

My main objective is to put the brands and consumers at the top of the business agenda. TUI UK’s strategy of differentiation and exclusivity is working very well, but there’s still a relatively low level of understanding of what the brands stand for and the detail within the products i.e. why our holidays are better than everyone else’s. Holidays are very intangible products, infrequently experienced and one of the most emotive purchases of the year, so arguably we have an even greater need for marketing to educate consumers. But the brand and marketing role is much broader than that. A brand is only as good as the experience it delivers and a large part of my remit is making sure the end to end customer journey is consistent with what is promised. The past few years I have invested a lot of time building a customer experience strategy along with several colleagues responsible for the customer journey through retail, online, customer service, overseas, airline and head office. We have made huge improvements in managing and delighting customers as a result by putting the customer back at the centre of the business. That’s why our customer satisfaction scores are second to none, and we are proud to include TripAdvisor™ ratings within our websites.

Creativebrief: You have spent the last decade at the forefront of the UK’s Leisure, Travel and Tourism industry, what have been the high points?

Jeremy Sinclair: Working in travel is incredibly varied. My core background is in product development and innovation and I’ve been responsible for the introduction of numerous new products such as Thomson Platinum and Thomson Family Resorts over the years. More recently I oversaw the launch of Thomson Sensatori our most successful holiday product ever, so that was a real high point and remains core to our future business strategy.     My first role in marketing communications was CRM and at this point in time we had just started to develop some very clever digital campaigns – 100% personalised, drawing in content based on previous history. It didn’t take long to realise that customer data is king, and I would argue we have one of the most sophisticated CRM programmes of any business. Customer data is now also very much at the heart of the TUI UK and is the backbone a large part of the end to end experience. Customer data is at the fingertips of almost all our front facing staff so they can recognise and delight customers, particularly those who are loyal. We have also developed some pretty nifty tools to improve customer’s excitement before their holiday. Traditionally, once they’d parted with their hard earned cash, we sent an invoice, a balance reminder and a ticket book. Now they get a completely personalised website with all their holiday details, rich content, what to do, contact details and fun things like countdown clock, weather reports and check lists. We’ve seen massive engagement in these and huge revenue increases in pre-booked sales. We’ve won loads of awards for our CRM capability over the years, including the 2011 Data Strategy Grand Prix this month for our behavioural targeting activity.

Creativebrief: What are the main challenges for your sector/category over the next 12 months?

Jeremy Sinclair: I believe the biggest challenges we face as a sector is continuing to drive value while all the economic and political unrest continues. Fuel, exchange rate, interest rates, unemployment levels, political upheavals, here and across the world – they all heavily influence our sector. Added to that, flights and cheap accommodation are now very much commoditised – easily accessed on the internet, far too much capacity and constantly discounted. TUI UK’s strategy of product differentiation and exclusivity in the very best hotels keeps us well ahead of our competitors so we are very confident in leading the way through the tough times ahead.

Creativebrief: What work have you done recently that makes you the most proud?

Jeremy Sinclair: I joined my current role at a time when the Thomson and First Choice brands were struggling to find clear and differentiated identities. Consumers couldn’t tell them apart. Added to that, no-one had ever managed to define a clear brand proposition for Thomson. I’ve spent the past year building a dual brand strategy to address this. By making First Choice into the ‘Home of All Inclusive’ and giving it real distinction has allowed Thomson to focus on a proposition based around what it does best ‘Holidays designed just for you’, or ‘Your Holiday to a T’. The next big job is to communicate these to consumers. The new Thomson campaign has just gone live designed specifically to build the brand before the busy post Christmas sales period. We kicked off with an emotionally led 90” TV ad – a first for any holiday company – and two months earlier than normal to give the brand message plenty of time to sink in. I’m really proud of the TV ad and have had tremendous feedback on it. I believe this is the beginning of a new dawn for Thomson. Watch this space for First Choice!   

 

Creativebrief: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next 5 years?

Jeremy Sinclair: The media landscape is a very difficult thing to judge given the digital world is still in its infancy. For sure, everything will be digitally based, completely personalised to individual consumers and all mobile. ‘Channels’ as we know them today won’t exist. A rich array of content tailored to your needs will be accessible through numerous digital portals. It won’t be long before we are creating personalising TV ads, or rather moving image ads, for each consumer to be accessed on any screen – at home, work, phone, tablet or whatever else comes along, at just the right time for them, and synchronised across multi access points. Paper will still play its part in the next 5 years. There are too many of us middle aged and upwards who still like to ‘flick’ and will never feel completely comfortable with just technology. We have a big debate about holiday brochures and the role they play, but we have customers who book online, then come into our shops to collect a brochure so they have something tangible to read and show friends. I think it will take longer than 5 years for paper to disappear.

Creativebrief: Do you prefer to use an ‘integrated’ agency approach or specialist agencies by individual discipline?

Jeremy Sinclair: Currently we have specialist agencies working across our activity but more and more, agencies are developing integrated capability. I think the more important challenge is to create an integrated approach internally before looking at integration externally. Merging offline and online marketing can often be quite a challenge when online is so ingrained into the fabric of driving sales. The offline/online distinction needs to be thrown out and the entire pot considered as one. The future is about optimising the entire marketing spend across all media using econometrics, web analytics and other measurement tools.

Creativebrief: Do you prefer to use local agencies by market or international/global agencies?

Jeremy Sinclair: In TUI Group we have a combination. Mediacom buy our media in UK and Germany, and for Late Rooms too. On the creative side, all the source markets have their own agencies although there has been some sharing of property from time to time. Holidays are not like cars or clothes – they are very individual and complex experiences and what the UK like in a hotel can be very different to what Germans or Scandinavians like, food and entertainment being classic examples. There’s nothing worse than sitting through entertainment that has to be repeated in several different languages before you get to the punch line!

Creativebrief: When choosing agencies in the past were you ever influenced by awards?

Jeremy Sinclair: Awards are a useful nod to previous success but may not be relevant to what the business needs are. I would always look at the quality of agencies’ previous work and how relevant it is to what I need to get done.

Creativebrief: What challenges do you face, managing day-to-day agency relationships?

Jeremy Sinclair: In my experience, the success of agency relationships boils down to three simple things:

  • The quality of the agency staff, in particular in understanding the business
  • Whether they are ‘people like you’
  • And most importantly the brief you give them. If the agency is clear on what they need to do – the relationship will be great.

We’ve had terrific results with BMB and Mediacom especially since we’ve got our dual brand strategy crystal clear.

Creativebrief: How often do you look at new agencies or review your roster?

Jeremy Sinclair: Ideally as infrequently as possible! Changing an agency is time consuming and costly so as long as I’m very happy with the work being produced, there’s no point in wasting energy.

Creativebrief: How do you monitor and stay-in-touch with the agency market to ensure you work with the best?

Jeremy Sinclair: Press, websites and personal references keep me informed enough.

Creativebrief: Which agencies do you think are ‘hot’ right now?

Jeremy Sinclair: I would say this as we use them for creative on both Thomson and First Choice, but BMB have delivered us a brilliant new TV ad for Thomson and have done some great ads for First Choice in the past. They’ve also won more new business than any other agency this year so they must be doing something right. I have to say that Mediacom are doing a terrific job for us too in getting great value out of our media spend. I would add that I’m impressed with the work that Adam and Eve have done on John Lewis.

Creativebrief: Do you/have you used intermediaries in the past? What are your observations?

Jeremy Sinclair: No, we’ve never used them.

Creativebrief: What’s your attitude to the ‘traditional’ pitch? Do you think there is a better/more modern way?

Jeremy Sinclair: I think the traditional pitch has a lot of merit. Take the three things I mentioned above about what makes a great agency relationship. It’s important to meet the people you are working with to understand them and what they are capable of. Technology can be used to speed things up through.

Creativebrief: Would you ever consider awarding an agency business without a pitch? What would they have to do / demonstrate?

Jeremy Sinclair: I think this is possible but only if you are very confident in what they are capable of. I would guess this could come from previous experience or recommendation from a close source. 

Creativebrief: What are your top tips to agencies when presenting credentials to you?

Jeremy Sinclair: Show a real understanding of the business and the business challenges, in a creative way. I recently had a cold-call email from a chap who’d booked a Thomson holiday for him and his family. His pitch was essentially a list of all the missed opportunities across the whole customer experience that we could have delivered to him had we been more integrated. Now that’s a seriously good understanding of our business!

Creativebrief: What was the most impressive agency presentation you have ever seen?

Jeremy Sinclair: I honestly can’t say that there’s one that really stands out.