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Executives

Julie M. B. Bradley - Chief Financial Officer, Chief Accounting Officer and Treasurer

Analysts

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

TripAdvisor Inc. (TRIP) Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference February 26, 2013 1:15 PM ET

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Good morning, I'm Scott Devitt. Morgan Stanley's Internet analyst. I'm going to start with the disclosures and then an introduction. Please note that all important disclosures, including personal holdings disclosures and Morgan Stanley disclosures appear on the Morgan Stanley public website at morganstanley.com/researchdisclosures or should you need them at the registration desk. I'm happy to have Julie Bradley, CFO of TripAdvisor. Julie joined TripAdvisor in October of 2011, shortly before the spinoff of Expedia. And prior to that, was the CFO at Art Technology Group and oversaw the acquisition by Oracle, so thanks for coming back this year.

Julie M. B. Bradley

Thanks. Thank you for having us.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

There's a lot to talk about. A lot going on at TripAdvisor.

Julie M. B. Bradley

A lot of good things.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

A lot of good things. And so let's start with maybe what's most topical and work our way back. This transition into metasearch, which we've made the cases very good for user experience, it has an effect on monetization in a short term. And so if you could just walk through the way that you're thinking about the transition, the timing that it takes and the effects that it does have on monetization?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Sure. That seems to be 1 of the 2 most popular questions that we've been getting lately. So it's glad to be here meeting with all of you. And we're really excited with our launch and our planned rollout to Meta Display earlier to mid-2012. We made a discussion first on our smartphones that the user interface, having those pop-up windows, when you were trying to book a hotel in such a small amount of real estate on a smartphone, was not ideal. Actually, frankly, I'm surprised people even used it. So we quickly made the decision that we are going to rollout Meta Display on smartphones in Q4, and it was very effective. We got a lot of great feedback from that, and the users really liked it. It was also increasing conversion rates. In that as well, we started testing Meta Display on desktop. When you think about TripAdvisor, the first and foremost important to us is the user experience. That's really our competitive mode. And so we do a lot -- we innovate quickly, like kind of a speed wins approach to make that user experience as positive as possible. So we focused on the Meta Display as an enhancement to the user experience. We've started testing that and working with our partners to get to an overall user UI that was great for them and great for the consumer, and that we could steer away to being revenue neutral for the company. And so at our last call, we committed to rolling this out to over the next 3 to 6 months. We said during that time that there could be some revenue headwinds as the number of clicks that we're passing after our partners decreases. Conversions are higher because the consumer is further down the booking path, so they should see higher CPCs. But in the near term, there could be some leakage as that transition goes through. So we could call our revenue headwind in Q2, but said once complete, we could get revenue neutral. And in the long run, we think it's actually revenue positive as we get more repeat usage and optimization and a higher pricing.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

And that rollout is global?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes. When we -- we're a very global company, so when we say we're rolling out new functions and features, that's on a worldwide basis so it stays. It would cause us some traffic in various jurisdictions, but once complete, it would be on smartphone, tablets and the desktop worldwide.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

And so when complete, it will be full metasearch and there will be no pop-up or...?

Julie M. B. Bradley

There will be no more pop-ups. Yes. You can all clap now.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

The -- so that's great for user experience.

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

And the next question around monetization is that you get more traffic from -- this is not inconsistent with other Internet companies, but more traffic comes from outside the U.S. relative to the revenue ratio. And there are all kinds of reasons for this depending on the company, but when do you expect more parity in terms of traffic contribution outside the U.S. to revenue contribution outside the U.S.?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Sure. So some of it is definitional and then some of it is structural. So the way that we define revenue by geo, we're looking at the point-of-sale versus the IP address. So for example, if I was sitting in Paris and I typed in tripadvisor.com, the U.S. point-of-sale, I would be in U.S. revenue and French international traffic. So there is a little bit of apple to oranges on those 2 definitions. But I think the more interesting point of the question is the monetization, the CPC pricing. And some of that is linked to the profit or the price per hotel. So with some disparity of more mature markets having higher price hotels, there's more profit as we demand higher pricing. And if you're booking a $17 a night hotel in Thailand and you're, of course, going to pay lower PCP. So there is the spread there from international to domestic, and especially in some of our emerging markets. But the benefits to us is there's a lot more traffic, the shift on going on internationally between off-line travel bookings to online, so there's other great benefits, of course, for TripAdvisor to continue to grow internationally.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

And Expedia seemed to spend more at least than we expected on the platform in 4Q. You're now towards -- you're at the end of kind of the second phase of this now. Where do you think you are in terms of Expedia from a spend standpoint? Has it stabilized? Is there still some risk that they could decide to pull back or could they decide to spend more aggressively, potentially given what's happening with Priceline and Kayak.

Julie M. B. Bradley

Sure. So you're correct to be -- there was a transition services increment place over the last year to kind of help Expedia find market rates, and which stays even then so over the last year. We don't really comment on specific pricing by partner. But I think as a consumer, if you went out on the site, you'd looked at where they were in placements last year. They took me almost to the #1 spot now. They're more evenly dispersed in that kind of finding the right marketing efficiency for them. And going forward, we look at them as any one of our other customers. We want them, too, to spend more on TripAdvisor and continue to deliver great quality traffic to them. But they -- the ultimate market auction is what's setting the price. There's not any specific agreement.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Before we shift to traffic, one other thing that I think interesting around metasearch is that it seems like it's becoming topical now to talk about Meta Book, where Kayak aligns for booking functionality behind metasearch. Trivago does not do that yet. Who knows if they intend to. And the way that you as a company think about, now that you've transitioned from pop-up, since you transitioned to metasearch, how do you ultimately thinking about Meta Book as a product in terms of keeping customers on-site versus sending them off-site?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Sure, that's a good question. It's a very popular question. We really like where we stand in the travel landscape as a community or research tool for the consumer. And part of being that research tool is we're providing them with user-generated content and pictures and reviews and also choice. So with meta now, we're going out and we're surveying the landscape to get them the best with -- who has availability and who has the best price. And I think with that move to the frictionless booking, you need to evaluate that as compared to building a community that the users trust and come as a destination to do all their research that includes all the choice.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Given the brand spend, are you positioning the company more competitively with the metacompanies? One, particularly which does spend grand dollars as that part of the strategy in terms of positioning, particularly Kayak who does spend grand dollars?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Kayak has done a nice job with their brand spend and increasing their awareness, primarily domestically. And they're a very nice case study. But TripAdvisor's decision to go into off-line advertising was more independent. We looked at over to half a dozen years where we have made great strides in growing globally with very little off-line brand spend. When we do spend some money, you'll see stickers in restaurants and hotel windows or travel's choice flags. If you're a first-time contributor, you get a luggage tag. So that permanent branding has worked quite well for us, but we've been very focused on online branding. And with a very measured ROI approach, that worked really well. But with the launch of the metasearch, we really felt this was the time to amplify the brand. When we look at TripAdvisor as the largest travel website in the world, but we only have 10% of the travel uniques, according to comScore. So we just need a huge opportunity coupled with a transformational UI enhancement that this is the time to try offline advertising.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Shifting to traffic then. The hotel shopper growth has been consistently around this 30% range, although last quarter it kicked up to the high 30s I think Steve said.

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

And one thing that's always been interesting is the possibility that you could grow revenue at the rate that you grow hotel shoppers. And I guess, what are you -- I guess, there's 2 questions here. One is the sustainability of the hotel shopper record is very strong, and then 2 is the possibility that eventually, revenue and hotel shopper growth converge?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Sure. So we do a lot to fuel hotel shopper growth through innovation, new functions and features that we're launching to the site on a weekly basis, really improving that user experience. We think with a meta is another good example of what we're doing. That's going to help fuel hotel shopper growth over the long term, continually innovating and so bringing that best experience to the consumer. The difference between hotel shopper growth and our click-based revenue growth, some of that is pricing, mobile, international that aren't monetized as much -- as well as our desktop mature markets. We've had, this past year, a couple of headwinds with a site redesign and Expedia pricing. And then as always, some FX. But I think directionally, we -- that is a goal for us, to have those closely aligned. We're going to have kind of one-offs from period to period, and with mobile and international being kind of the 2 consistent themes going forward.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Is there any reason to think that this 30% plus kind of level isn't sustainable for a period of time, the next couple of years? It's been pretty consistent. And in fact, there's not an exactly number bps, 500 basis points roughly.

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes, Yes. We're in the mid-30s. And in the fourth quarter, we really liked our traveling public. I think it would be further international expansion, the shift from off-line travel bookings to online travel booking on the rest of the world, that's going to continue to help, and taking market share from having the best functions in the future is going to continue to help us. The innovation and its speed to delivery of the new functions would be definitely important.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

So maybe talk next about your reliance on search. There have been some things in the past where Google has made changes and had an effect on TripAdvisor. So your reliance in search, your overall traffic acquisition strategy and your budget allocation between -- we heard you talk a little bit about brand. But online, were you spending the dollars?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes. We do acquire traffic and we are, we did get a substantial amount of traffic from the search engines, both on smartphones purchase and also organic search. And so we also get traffic on a demand [indiscernible], probably a favorite source of topic, which is hopefully would increase over time as we increase our off-line spend and our brand awareness. We looked at all sources, and we're trying to reach the consumer. So for hotel searches, consumer search, they tend to -- unlike a site search, they start with a search engine even if they kind of know where they're going to end up. So we want to make sure that we have all those touch points available. And we're the highest-ranking on any path that you choose to get to TripAdvisor, to give you the best overall experience.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

And the brand component, the off-line component, is that something that you think will be an integrated part of the marketing campaign in the future years? Is it more of a test or one-off or you just not know yet depending on...

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes. Well, our approach to investment is to test this, look at the metrics and get the ROI. We test and expand. So we have put a budget in place that we think enables us to get some pretty good traction in 2013. We have not included in our plan any uplift in revenue directly related to the off-line spend. And looking into 2014, I think we'll be hard pressed to recommend it if we didn't see some continuation of it, if we didn't see some uplift in revenue. So that was the goal, but I think it's too soon to put out 2014 numbers.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

That makes sense.

Julie M. B. Bradley

I just put out 2013 numbers.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

The -- you had -- even when you're a part of Expedia and to spend, EBITDA margins were in the 50s, you've taken them down strategically, I would argue, for a good reason. And the modifications and pop-ups, some component of the site, the traffic quality, the dynamics I think that was Q2 last year, being another piece of that. So do you -- what do you anticipate again is the longer-term question you may not yet want to address. But in terms of the margin profile of the business, do you think that 50% plus, ultimately you've come out of it in the investment site and you get back to where you were or do you think that the margin profile is more consistent with where you are now?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes. I think investors should not be focused on the 50 -- returning to a 50% EBITDA margin as a long-term goal. We see a huge market opportunity, where we can grow at increasing rates, that we can continue to get market share, we can benefit from the shift from off-line to online and that we invest in the long term or we can improve our user experience and look for ways to aggressively grow. So to the extent that we can find those positive investments in our current market, in adjacent markets, we will continue to do that. And I think that's a better focus than returning to our historical margins.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Do you think, as it relates to mobile, is there a point in time where you think it's revenue neutral? I mean, to the extent that certainly, you can't really replicate the display business on mobile, but with the tablet you potentially can. But as it relates to the click-based revenue, is there any reason to think that eventually pricing is going to be fairly agnostic across the platforms, given where you stood in the funnel and how you're going deeper into that funnel?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes. So just on the display-based, really, it's a small part of our business, so we're not as negatively impacted by the shift to smartphones as some other Internet players might be. The -- but on the click-based business, I think a lot of that is consumer driven. And I believe it's -- the smartphones are additives to your overall travel planning experience, where you're kind of waiting for a meeting, I can do a little research on a hotel, put it in my save, come back to it later. But it's more about consumer evolution to -- if I'm going to book my entire trip on my smartphone versus on my tablet or desktop. And we think about tablet and desktop as pretty much the same, they monetize very closely to each other. Where we're really focused on smartphones is that in-market use and kind of being best-of-breed, being able to have functions and features that are specific to end-market usages. And we see more traffic tending towards restaurants and attractions than to hotels. And so those are 2 areas that we don't currently monetize.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Do you think ultimately, there may be a distinction between metasearch on a desktop and then the value of doing Meta Book in a mobile environment, given the ability you can apply these for use all on the TripAdvisor site versus sending someone off-site?

Julie M. B. Bradley

I think it's a possibility. We do have a couple of companies in our portfolio that are OTA, so we are -- we can go and also [indiscernible]. So we do have some experience that we might be able to leverage and help provide that frictionless booking for -- on a smartphone.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

So you recently added -- you began to beta-test more tools for some of the advertisers. Talk a bit about that and what improving visibility analytics is doing in terms of the spend of those that are testing the platform?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Sure. So we put out several new reports and analytics that's going to help our partners have better visibility into their bidding process and where that's yielding them on ROI and placement in the search results. It has been extremely helpful in our rollout of meta. As we are showing them the higher conversion rates, we're having them bid separately on mobile, on show prices, pop-ups and on meta and being able to reconcile those improvements across in the conversion. So there's a lot of reporting and handholding with the partners right now. I would say that we have more tools than they're able to digest currently. And that over time, it will help us increase the velocity of their bidding and help them optimize that which -- in turn helps them spend more money on TripAdvisor.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

And so at one point, as Steve had mentioned, the possibility that if it didn't go in the direction that you thought would potentially pull the tools back, so it's working as expected. It's something you would anticipate more broadly distributing throughout the advertiser base?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes. I think it is instrumental in the rollout of meta and, as I said, we'll be pushing out more in using the consultative account management teams to help our partners digest it. And we focus their bidding structures.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

So something that you talked about extensively in the prior years has been business listings. And it's an opportunity for hotels to go direct, bypass [indiscernible] and research they haven't before. I think you've just announced 50,000 hotels. How is that going relative to your expectations and where do you think the opportunity is there?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes. We're really excited about business listings. 2012 was about building out that global sales force to attack the opportunities. And I think that they had a great year, and we're in place to leverage their productivity into 2013. You'll see us announce more functions and features to upsell to our current base, as well as getting more traction with the addressable markets. And so we're excited about the growth in 2013.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Anything you can help with in terms of regional aspects in terms of better standing out. I mean, there are always differences and distinctions in the U.S. markets even in Europe from southern Europe to other parts as well. The market seems to think Europe is doing better. Different travel players have had different things in their pocket. Where are you in terms of -- when you look at U.S. and then if you look at Europe and the distinctions between northern and southern Europe, if there are...

Julie M. B. Bradley

Sure. There's kind of a simple answer than not. We saw and are seeing growth globally volume and pricing increases on a sequential basis. So we're pleased with the path of traffic and pricing globally.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

How do you think about what, I would say search engines but let's just say Google, what their intentions are in the category? There have been various efforts, including some integration of reviews, and including flight search functionality, hotel search functionality that they're integrating throughout the acquisition of [indiscernible], the way TripAdvisor is preparing and thinking about what Google is doing?

Julie M. B. Bradley

The Google has clearly been making more inroads into the travel market, which I think consolidates our space. But I think the area that they're going to have a hard time competing with us is the aspect of the community. And the destination that I'm going to go to Google to research and get unbiased user-generated content that is deep, that's tied into my friend's network and really wanted to give back. I think that is, I think, the TripAdvisor really prides itself on. That experience, that community and the research tool for the users. And I think Google, because of the commercial aspects of it, is going to have difficulty in making inroads there.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

How important has social integration been thus far? Because it's very early, are you finding it to be useful in terms of driving traffic to users that are actually using this integration and having friends actively participate in and learning from what they get from their friends' experiences?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes. Our Facebook relationship is going very well. I think it benefits both the TripAdvisor users and the Facebook community. It makes it an overall richer experience. I wouldn't say that Facebook is a large traffic source for us. We look to find a way to make it a greater traffic source. But what it does, it has dramatically increased the amount of contributions, reviews, opinions, shares, likes on the TripAdvisor site and on the Facebook site, so we also get brand awareness out of that. So we're pleased with it and we look forward to continuing to expand our relationships with them.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Has your developments -- have your developments in social had any effects in terms of your willingness to spend in search? Has it had any impact on your search spend at this point in time?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Well, we will buy as much traffic as we can profitably, so it's not an either or. It's whether or not to be social spend is yielding the results that we're looking for.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

What are those results? If you are to take search relative to your social spend, is there a large disparity sale that favors the search or is it...?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes. Search has more of a one-to-one relationship. I buy traffic, I sell traffic. And as long as you can do that profitably, we're going to continue to buy as much as we can. Whereas our social spend has a longer gestation period. We're looking to buying marketable numbers that converts -- that contributes more content, that share more, that when they convert, they convert it at higher levels, but it's -- we have a longer horizon on that.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

All right. Let me stop there. We have about 8 minutes left. We'll go to questions in the back.

Question-and-Answer Session

Unknown Analyst

Where can you see to monetize restaurants [indiscernible]?

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

The question was around the restaurant traffic and how you monetize that?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes. So today we're not focused on monetizing the restaurant traffic. We believe it is great for user experience. And as the gets them coming to the site with higher frequency. They might take a trip a few times a year, but you probably got to eat a lot more frequently than that. And we've get good local coverage from that. And so we're in the gaining stickiness stage, but it's a lot of traffic. And at some important time, we will look to monetize that.

Unknown Analyst

On your last call, you disclosed that 50% of your users were in the hotel shopping mode. Can you give a little bit more clarity as far as -- does that distribute evenly across geographies? Or does it -- is it a larger concentration in the U.S. versus internationally? And directionally, how has that changed over time? Can you disclose any of that additional information?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes. We haven't disclosed any of those specific details. I think the big comment there is with the [indiscernible] we disclosed that out of our total traffic, 50% were coming in hotels. And we had 50% of our traffic coming to restaurants and attractions that we don't currently monetize, so it's more of the opportunity there. The -- as far as hotel shopper growth, our developing emerging markets are growing much faster, albeit off a smaller base. But in -- the second point is, we wanted to make is that our mature markets in the U.S. and U.K. probably are growing at very healthy growth clip.

Unknown Analyst

I know the subscription transaction is another a pretty small part of the business now, but it's growing very fast. Can you break out what's in there and driving that growth? And to the extent that maybe it's vacation rentals, can you talk about your long-term strategy and how big that business can be in 3 to 5 years?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Sure. So the question is around subscription and transaction and what's in there and what are the growth drivers. So the subscription and transaction includes our vacations rentals business, business listings in some of our transaction businesses, such as Tingo and SniqueAway. The 2 lead contributor factors are vacation rentals and business listings, both growing relatively fast and in line with our total overall projections for 2013. We spoke briefly about business listings, vacation rentals, what we think about is it's necessary to give our consumers more choice. And we have enjoyed this great traveling public that is looking for a place to stay. And it may not be a hotel for a family of 5 going to Orlando, so we want to introduce them to the vacation rental market. We think it's highly fragmented and that there's a large opportunity to continue to penetrate in some of that market.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Any other... Yes.

Unknown Analyst

Yes. With so much concentration on your business associated with Priceline and Expedia, just expand on how you manage or control your business.

Julie M. B. Bradley

Sure. We kind of see the -- it's not as concentrated as you might think. Expedia companies and Priceline company is actually bid very independently from one another. So you think you can bifurcate and separate out all of their parts. We think of them as individual customers and as not part of the larger group. We also enjoy regional top players, OTAs, across the globe that are very strong in controlling in their individual markets. And we have further diversification with -- showing our actual prices to change and diversification with business listings and the additional value that we're going to be able to sell to them. So over time the portfolio will looks much different.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

So Julie, can you talk to us about or give us some metrics, quantitative metrics on your presence in some of the larger major international markets in terms of share or type of prices? I have noticed in some of the international markets, I have cousins, that they use it more as a de facto in the Middle East and in India, like the TripAdvisor that I do here. And also talk to us qualitatively how you try to enhance your brand presence in the major international markets?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Sure. I would say that there's international markets and where our market share is. Our goal is to be #1 in every market. That's not the case. There's, in some markets, there's a highly concentrated local player. That it has the #1 spot. And we are looked at -- we look at international expansion, we look at customizing our local points of sale to be more tailored on to local units. And I think that's another reason restaurants plays in well because that's -- if you went to that local content and read reviews and starting to view that relationship as becoming that standard. And I love the stories of someone's out on a deserted island and there's nothing commercial, but there was a TripAdvisor sticker and that person who barely speaks English is asking for a review. So I think we're very deep in some areas, but we have a long way to go in deepening our world market presence.

Unknown Analyst

Specifically, what are the markets where you have the deepest or best market penetration?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes. Most mature markets are the U.S. and the U.K. And it scales down towards some of the emerging markets.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

One more.

Unknown Analyst

Okay. How much are you going to spend on the off-line marketing? I think you referenced it on your call. And then what's the timing of that also thinking of you're still transitioning to the new meta? When are you going to be spending that money? When is the meta going to be fully rolled out and how much are you going to spend?

Julie M. B. Bradley

Like I said -- so we said that we will be rolling out meta in the next 3 to 6 months. So by the end of that time, meta would be 100% on smartphones, tablets and desktops within the next 3 to 6 months or maybe 2 to 5 months now. And at the completion of that, we will launch our advertising campaign. So the Q2 timeframe around meta overwrites, Q3 timeframe around the off-line spend. We didn't specifically quantify what we will be spending, but we did say that we were not going to spend -- that our EBITDA gross margins would be in line with our revenue growth for 2003, which is below 20s. So let's quickly do the math for you, it stands somewhere in the $40 million to $50 million range.

Scott W. Devitt - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Julie, thanks for your time. I appreciate it.

Julie M. B. Bradley

Yes. Thank you very much.

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