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July 22, 2022
5 min read

Kölner Stadtanzeiger Medien's Strategy to Convert Print-Only Advertisers to Digital Buyers

Kölner Stadtanzeiger Medien conducted an analysis of their regional advertisers' digital spending and discovered that while larger and local key accounts successfully embraced digital transformation, many small and medium-sized business (SMB) print customers were still not investing in online budgets.

Christian Scherbel
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This article appeared first on inma.org

Bridging the Gap Between Print and Online Advertising

When KölnerStadtanzeiger Medien conducted their annual review of the digital spending trends among regional advertisers, they observed significant digital transformation success in larger accounts and local key accounts. However, they noticed that many loyal small and medium-sized business (SMB) print customers had not yet embraced online advertising, despite the availability of diverse digital options at various price points, including affordable entry-level packages.

Further investigation through customer interviews revealed that, despite the range of digital solutions offered, online advertising remained daunting for these customers due to several factors:

  • Complexity: The abundance of formats, targeting options, pricing structures, and key performance indicators (KPIs) was overwhelming.
  • Creative Requirements: The need for high-quality banners and landing pages was a challenge, as many SMBs lacked the resources or time to develop these effectively.
  • Relevant KPIs: Traditional brick-and-mortar advertisers prioritized visibility for their offers over website clicks, making standard online advertising KPIs less relevant to their needs.

To address these challenges, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger Medien sought a solution that would:

  • Enable the creation of high-quality banners and landing pages for their long-tail advertisers on a large scale.
  • Train their sales representatives to offer intuitive online products efficiently, ensuring that a digital campaign worth €100 could be sold in 5 minutes or less.
  • Increase the cost per thousand impressions (CPM) on their pages by prioritizing higher-priced local campaigns over lower national CPMs or programmatic campaigns.
  • Significantly scale local display ad sales and enhance the profitability of their advertising revenue.

Their innovative solution was the introduction of Smart Ads, designed as the simplest and most intuitive digital entry product for local advertisers who still engage in print advertising. This approach aimed to bridge the gap between traditional and digital advertising, making it more accessible and relevant for SMBs.

Smart Ads – Transforming the Business Model

With Smart Ads, the goals of Kölner Stadtanzeiger Medien were:

  1. Streamlining  the Banner and Landing Page Creation Process: They aimed to simplify the development of banners and landing pages, moving away from low-quality, quick-fix solutions often used by small agencies or advertisers themselves.
  2. Enhancing  Reader Acceptance: The initiative focused on improving the quality of local digital ads, which were previously perceived as substandard, especially those created in basic programs like Paint.
  3. Reframing  the Sales Narrative: The goal was to shift from selling abstract metrics like website visitors and click-through rates (CTR) to more tangible benefits for brick-and-mortar advertisers.

To achieve these goals, Smart Ads was designed to seamlessly integrate with every print ad, encouraging print advertisers, who had never ventured into digital, to start booking digital display ads at scale – potentially hundreds of new ads per month. In partnership with Smartico, Kölner Stadtanzeiger Medien automated the process: every print ad PDF was sent to an FTP, where Smartico, using a combination of AI and human expertise, created banners and landing pages within 24 hours. This process included incorporating data from the print ad, as well as additional information from the advertiser's homepage, social media profiles, or Google Business listings, without requiring extra input from the advertiser or sales representative.

This innovation allowed print sales reps to offer Smart Ads to every small advertiser effortlessly, as it eliminated the need for additional briefings or data collection. The technology and an external media design team at Smartico handled all aspects of the ad creation. Moreover, with the inclusion of built-in landing pages, Kölner Stadtanzeiger Medien began providing advertisers with metrics like "time spent on the landing page" instead of traditional CTR numbers. This new metric proved to be more intuitive and valuable for local advertisers, especially those with limited experience in digital advertising

     Results: Exceeding Expectations

All other stakeholders felt the positive impact of Smart Ads as well:

  • Reader  Engagement: The new ads are being embraced by readers as "local reading material," reflected in higher click-through rates (CTRs) compared to national campaigns. CTRs of 0.5% and above indicate significant value to local readers.
  • Campaign  Management Efficiency: The campaign management team appreciates the solution, as the cost per thousand impressions (CPMs) for the "bundles" (e.g., €69 for a fixed amount of ad impressions plus banner and landing page) are higher than those achieved through methods like programmatic advertising.     Additionally, all local campaigns are automatically booked into the ad server. On average, the CPM for Smart Ads  has exceeded €13.
  • Sustainability and Long-Term Growth: The increase in revenue is attributed not only to the improved upselling rates from existing print customers to Smart  Ads (which are so successful that they are increasingly combined as a default "auto-bundle") but also to Smart Ads customers transitioning to digital-only products at much higher price points. This positions our product as a gateway to digital advertising, fostering sustainable growth and long-term success.

In 2022, the solution „Smart Ads“ of Kölner Stadtanzeiger Medien together with Smartico was awarded with a nomination for INMA’s Global News Media Awards.

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