LaFortune: You will likely never see these ads
An advertisement promoting San Jose. Photo courtesy of Team San Jose.
Photo courtesy of Team San Jose.

These ads were seen digitally more than 145 million times last year. Of those 145 million times, people clicked on the ads to learn more about San Jose 9 million times. For a clear understanding of this scale, 9 million is the populations of Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston and Philadelphia combined.

But you probably didn’t see them, and you likely won’t see them in the future. Why not? There is a good reason.

The city of San Jose markets itself. Specifically, it contracts with nonprofit Team San Jose to provide this service. The tax revenue generated through this marketing lowers the tax burden for those of us who live here and provides funding for the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs and general fund.

Under the brand name Visit San Jose, Team San Jose promotes the city as a convention, meetings and tourism destination with the goal to drive transient occupancy tax, or TOT as it is commonly known. According to the city’s website, TOT is a tax imposed on a hotel guest or transient that the hotel collects and remits to the city. The city then returns a percentage of this tax to Team San Jose to reinvest and drive more revenue.

This is a proven economic development strategy. Through sales and marketing efforts, Team San Jose invites meetings, events, business and leisure travelers to fill hotels rooms — and the convention center, theaters, restaurants and small businesses — with out-of-area guests. These visitors arrive, spend, pay taxes, use no city services and leave.

Those 9 million ad clicks that I mentioned converted to more than 50,000 hotel and flight bookings into San Jose. That is 80,000 San Jose hotel room nights generated from paid marketing alone. Sales efforts contributed an additional 111,000 rooms last year.

This strategy is possible due to the sophistication of today’s digital advertising technology. In an effort to maximize advertising reach and conversion with a limited budget, we target the ads based on digital behavior and intent to travel. The ads are delivered to those most likely to purchase travel and who do not live in San Jose.

If you have a bedroom in San Jose or the drivable surrounding area, it is designed so you are not likely to ever see these ads at all.

Besides ensuring that we reach travelers who are genuinely interested in what we have to offer, this ad technology provides completely trackable real dollar revenue numbers. A visitor is followed from the first ad view to their purchase. If they visit once, or visit us online at, they are also targeted due to our strong repeat visitation.

It is going well. San Jose is marketing more effectively and efficiently than ads in tourism or any field. The advertising industry measures ads by calculating return on advertising spend (ROAS). The commonly used ROAS benchmark is four. That means, $4 in revenue is generated for every $1 spent on advertising. Last year, Visit San Jose’s ROAS was $34.50. The ads you see above returned over eight times higher than the industry norm and generated $35.8 million with a 4:1 return in city taxes and fees alone for this investment.

Ad content is essential to conversion, but destination ad content is even more important to the community it represents. Who and how we tell our stories means something to our city. What is San Jose’s story?

I’ll revisit this question in subsequent columns. For now, I’ll share that based on these ads, every local artist will have a different, compelling and beautiful response. Our great thanks to curator Demone Carter and to artists Tamiko Rast, Rayos Magos, Quynh-Mai Nguyen, Omar Rodriguez and Angie Chua for working with us as contracted partners and showing the beauty of San Jose to millions.

If you haven’t seen any of our 145 million ads served, we know that you are unlikely to book a hotel room, a meeting or an event in San Jose. But lots of people are.

Lucescamaray Blog columnist John LaFortune is the president and CEO of Team San Jose, the nonprofit parent company of Visit San Jose, the city’s official destination marketing organization. Team San Jose also manages the San Jose McEnery Convention Center and entertainment venues including the California Theatre, the Center for Performing Arts, Montgomery Theater and San Jose Civic. Contact John at [email protected].

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