The Etihad Holiday Machine

Etihad Holidays logo


To encourage holiday-makers to book direct with Etihad, rather than via less profitable 3rd party aggregator sites. We were launching a new digital booking experience, which included seamless end-to-end booking and real-time pricing algorithm.

The problem is that a good user experience is tablestakes when booking a holiday. Customers expect a seamless booking journey wherever they go and are adept at finding the best value for their trips. It is not enough to persuade them to book directly with Etihad.

How could we create a distinctive, engaging story for the new digital booking engine?

We needed a creative insight to fuel a distinctive idea. The digital revolution has spawned predictable and homogenous communication which usually focuses on slick technology, simple design and price-led offers. We took inspiration from the 19thCentury ingenuity of the late-industrial revolution to create a completely different aesthetic to stand out from the sea of sameness.

We leveraged search data, web browsing data and customer-level 1stparty data to build a picture of the audience. We discovered that Etihad Holidays ranked the lowest in search visibility with an average of 2% of all search queries among holiday and travel companies. Using attribution modelling we identified the other media channels being used during the booking process, such as Google Maps, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. These insights informed our channel and media strategy.

And we built three key audiences with a high propensity to travel Family Fun (35-54 with kids in HH), Young Explorers (30-54 with a high interest in travel)) and Empty Nesters (Affluent 55+).


The Etihad Holiday Machine. A physical manifestation of the new back end algorithm hosted by a retro-futuristic Steampunk character called ‘The Engineer’.

Hailed as a revolutionary new way to search and book holidays with the Best Prices Guaranteed, we created a multi-faceted media campaign simultaneously targeting and re-targeting our three audiences with tailored messaging.  This created a media multiplier effect so that we had presence in each channel customers were using during the planning phase.

We created three bursts of cross-platform (mobile and web) launch activity across email Instagram and Facebook. We used Custom Audiences to rotate price led, inspirational packages and generic awareness Link Ads, Dynamic Banners and Carousels.

Simultaneously we created an Etihad Holiday Machine live activation which ran in Paddington Station, London. In full theatrical Steampunk costume our ‘Engineer’ and a large Steampunk Holiday Machine enthralled target market commuters with the chance to win holidays to Abu Dhabi plus discounts to other destinations around the world. The visually distinctive experience and winners’ stories were captured, broadcast and socialised through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.


  • Thousands of packages were sold in the first six weeks
  • Revenue increase +113%
  • Transactional value increased by +76%
  • Social reach over 3.2 million