Case Detail

Case Summary

Air France Internet Marketing: Optimizing Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Kayak Sponsored Search

Case Number: 5-407-753, Year Published: 2009

HBS Number: KEL319

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Authors: Lisa Egli; Jessica Lambert; Liz Neely; Andy Gieraltowski; Jason Miller; Rakesh Sharma

Key Concepts

Customer Preferences, Customer Relationship Management, Customer Satisfaction, Campaign Management, International Business, Internet Marketing, Internet Search, Internet Tools, Marketing Communications, Marketing Efficacy


Rob Griffin, senior vice president and U.S. director of search for Media Contacts, a communications consulting firm, is faced with the task of optimizing search engine marketing (SEM) for Air France. At the time of the case, SEM had become an advertising phenomenon, with North American advertisers spending $9.4 billion in the SEM channel, up 62% from 2005. Moving forward, Griffin wants to ensure that the team keeps its leading edge and delivers the results Air France requires for optimal Internet sales growth.

The case centers upon Air France’s and Media Contacts’ efforts to find the ideal SEM campaign to provide an optimal amount of ticket sales in response to advertising dollars spent. This optimal search marketing campaign is based on choosing effective allocation of ad dollars across the various search engines, as well as selecting appropriate keywords and bid strategies for placement on the search result page for Internet users.

In determining the optimal strategy, the case presents background information on the airline industry as well as the Internet search options available at the time, including Google, Microsoft MSN, Yahoo!, and Kayak. Additionally, background information is provided on SEM and its associated costs and means of measuring the successfulness of each marketing effort.

The case illustrates how one must first determine the key performance indicators for the project to guide analysis and enable comparison of various SEM campaigns. Cost per click and probability to produce a sale differ among publishers. Therefore, using a portfolio application model’s quadrant positions can be used to determine optimal publisher strategies. Additionally, pivot tables help illustrate campaigns and strategies that have historically been most successful in meeting Air France’s target Internet sales. Multiple recommendations on how Media Contacts can assist Air France in improving its SEM strategy can be derived from the data provided.

Spanish translation available.

Learning Objectives

Students learn how to optimally leverage the Internet in generating customer sales in a cost-effective manner. Students will analyze and manipulate a variety of data using pivot tables to determine optimal strategies for obtaining maximum total online bookings through the various online channels available. Using a portfolio application model, students can determine an optimal publisher strategy and complete copy improvement analysis.

Number of Pages: 18

Language: Spanish

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Management, Marketing, Strategy, Technology, Statistical Methods

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: Global, United States, France

Industry: Airline, Communications Consulting

Organization Name: Air France, Media Contacts

Organization Department: Internet Marketing

Organization Size: Large

Decision Maker Position: Senior VP & U.S. Director of Search

Decision Maker Gender: Male

Year of Case: 2007