Episode 254: The Crutch of Paid Media: Why DMOs Are Stifling Their Growth

By Emily Christman on May 05, 2023

As the competition for travelers’ attention intensifies, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) are increasingly turning to paid media as a way to reach their target audiences. However, relying solely on paid media for advertising can be a mistake. In the most recent episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast, I had a discussion with Stuart Butler about how many DMOs rely too much on paid media. In this post, we’ll explore why DMOs should diversify their advertising strategies and lessen their reliance on paid media.

Paid media, such as online ads, billboards and TV commercials, can be an effective way to raise awareness of a destination and attract visitors. Paid media can reach a large audience quickly and generate immediate results. However, relying solely on paid media can have several drawbacks.

Overly Expensive

Paid media can be expensive, and DMOs may not have the budget to sustain a long-term advertising campaign. Paid media is also subject to the law of diminishing returns. Once a destination has been advertised heavily, it becomes more challenging to attract new visitors using the same messaging.

Lacking in heart

Paid ads can also have a problem with connection. These direct advertisements are impersonal and may not be the best way to build relationships with potential visitors. As discussed in a previous post, audiences want to feel a personal connection to a destination, and paid media may not be the best way to create that connection. DMOs can better connect with potential visitors by using other advertising strategies that emphasize the destination’s unique attributes, such as its culture, history and local cuisine.


Third, relying solely on paid media can make it challenging to stand out from the competition. With so many destinations vying for travelers’ attention, it’s essential to find ways to stand out from the pack. Almost every DMO uses ads that show off its landscapes, attractions and food, with a standard “Visit ___” call to action. What can you do that’s new? 

Let’s take a look and some other ways DMOs can market themselves successfully :

  1. Branded content: Stuart and I both agree that DMOs of all sizes should be harnessing their branded content. Branded content involves creating and sharing informative, entertaining or engaging content that educates and inspires potential visitors. DMOs can use content marketing to showcase their destination’s unique attributes and provide travelers with helpful tips and recommendations.
  1. Social media: A strong social presence can be an effective way to engage with potential visitors and build a following. DMOs can use social media to share unique photos of the destination, answer questions and engage with potential visitors and promote events and attractions.
  1. Influencer marketing: Along the same lines as the above, influencer marketing involves partnering with social media influencers to promote a destination. Influencers have much higher engagement rates than your standard Google ad. DMOs can work with influencers with a following that reflects one of their specific target niches. This is a great way to connect with both your main audience and your tertiary audiences.
  1. Public relations: Known as earned media, public relations involves building relationships with journalists and media outlets to secure coverage for a destination. DMOs can use public relations to generate positive press coverage and build credibility.

While paid media can be a valuable advertising strategy for DMOs, it’s important not to rely solely on this tactic. DMOs need to diversify their marketing strategies to achieve long-term success. By incorporating content marketing, social media, influencer marketing, public relations, and community partnerships into their advertising mix, DMOs can build stronger relationships with potential visitors and differentiate themselves from the competition.