Who is Watauga Group?


An independent media planning and buying agency comprised of dedicated planners, buyers and analysts with a specialty in performance and conversion-based targeting for travel, telecom, and food/retail.

Although our headquarters are in Orlando, 10% of our team resides in South Carolina, and tourism is the life blood of the communities we call home. Additionally, with offices also in Atlanta and Birmingham, we have a deep understanding of the key markets that drive bookings to the coast of South Carolina.

Improved Digital ROAS by 300% 


Increase park visitation and drive online sales for season passes & single day tickets.


Dollywood focused on 5-6 core drive markets for all media, with a heavy spend in TV/Radio.  The high cost of a traditional broadcast approach limited expansion opportunities and digital tactics like SEM & Retargeting were restricted the same 5-6 core markets.  The result – no view into market growth potential and restricted ability to improve optimize and ROAS.


Revisited the market allocations and media mix to focus on ROAS.  Step one was to develop a change, including new scoring system for market opportunity index based on sales revenue/volume not total tickets. 


  • Developed a market tiering approach for all US DMAs to assess and project market expansion opportunities.
  • An overhaul of the broadcast approach to deliver TV commercials in family-based content with higher recall. Reduced overall TRP levels instead of just buying TV TRPs as tonnage.  This aligned messaging to reinforce and even change positioning of Dollywood to a place to reconnect with family.  
  • Savings from broadcast were invested in digital.
    • Created custom segments Customer Match, Look-a-Like, Loyalists vs prospecting, Purchase vs. Non Purchase, etc.
    • Implemented a digital mix based on market tiering, allowing markets not touched to be targeted with digital messaging.


  • In the first full year, ticket sales broke records despite a flat budget
  • Improved digital ROAS by more than 300% in Year 1

Bed Tax Collections Up 21% 


Drive first-time visits to the website using key metrics (site sessions, new sessions, and time on site) as proxies for travel planning intent.


Implement a data driven approach to develop custom segments (i.e. segment the family based on age of children etc).  Then to talk to audiences when they are most likely to be considering travel and the types of trips they are planning (family, romance, adventure, event).

Digital-first plan

  • Executed high impact media to raise awareness through addressable TV, endemic networks, video, and custom content driving site traffic
  • Platform agnostic approach to traffic drivers
    • Organized programmatic through one DSP to remove minimums, allow cross platform optimizations and consistency in segmentation
    • Moved to social and programmatic optimized together to allow easy shifts in budget to maximize results
    • Added data for evaluation of performance, including Adara Impact to measure by bookings/flights by campaign


January 2020 YoY rolling site sessions up 44% and bed tax collection up;

  • 5% in fiscal 2017
  • 10.1% in 2018 
  • Oct-Jan fiscal 2020 up 21.3% YoY

Post-hurricane, our team leveraged discounted rates and negotiated added value to upwards of 25 million impressions for re-launch.

Our South Carolina team is led by Michelle Evans, a native of Charleston.  Michelle has three decades of experience under her belt managing multimillion-dollar media budgets for The Home Depot and Nissan.  But her passion for travel began in the Grand Strand.  Working with South Carolina PRT, Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, Barefoot Resort and Broadway at the Beach.  Her parents, residents of Murrells Inlet, are avid golfers and they all expect to spend more time golfing in the Grand Strand this fall since looks like they won’t be going to any Clemson or Carolina football games.

To learn more about how Watauga Group can help drive bookings please complete the form below to ask about any of our services or call us at 843.998.7998 ext.614