When Media24 wanted to create a fun and innovative ad experience for users, it turned to an unlikely source: Tinder.
“It’s a product that came from a space of real fun,” said Jerusha Raath, head of the Ad Space Studio at Media 24 in South Africa. “It was a passion project that we integrated into our workflow. And if there’s one message that I can land with you, it is that you can have a great deal of fun in your commercial publisher environments still and still really add value to your clients.”
During the recent INMA Africa News Media Summit, Raath walked members through her company’s journey to create a new way to engage users and attract advertisers. The challenge began as the team looked at how to convert print grocery store inserts — a long-standing source of revenue — to a digital space. Media24 knew it was necessary to convert to digital to sustain its newsrooms but was looking for a way to convert that popular print insert to digital.
“We wanted to maintain that retail spend in print, [not] take away from it. But we also wanted to ensure that we grew our retail spend on our digital channels,” Raath said.
The questions became one, how to drive product and price in a digital environment, and secondly, how to convince retailers the digital advertising experience could be as powerful as a print insert.
As the team wrestled with this questions, one of their designers joked it was “almost like Tinder, but for your shopping basket. You want to be able to swipe left and right and see exactly what the product is, what the price is, and then decide do you want to add it to your basket.”
After having a good laugh, the team realised that was exactly what it needed.
The Tinder-fication of advertising
Media24 knew it could deliver a higher-than-average view time on social media for advertisers. While a social media environment such as Facebook receives about 1.7 seconds of a user’s attention, the publisher’s site averages about 11 seconds of attention. That gave Raath the confidence to promise retailers a brand-safe environment with higher-than-average view times.
With Tinder still in the back of their minds, the team started working on a mobile app that would seamlessly integrate with its online news environment.
“What we wanted the user to do was to be engaged. We wanted them to be drawn in and we wanted them to swipe on their device,” she said. “We also wanted to offer comparative creative because ultimately that is what a newspaper insert was. It was the ability for you to compare prices side-by-side and make a decision.”
The result is a swipe card feature that enables product comparison. But it quickly became apparent that usage could extend to many types of ads where comparisons would be effective — such as buying a car.
“We took it one step further because now we were on a roll and we were having a hell of a lot of fun,” Raath said.
The swipe card was also used for a campaign for a rugby team, allowing users to learn more about players, game info, etc.
Creating a catalogue
Building off the swipe card concept, Media24 created a catalogue feature that allowed users to browse, for example, movies that were playing at area cinemas. Users could click on a particular movie image to find out where it’s playing, show times, and age restrictions. It could also be booked directly through the app.
“When the user was engaging with a specific article reading our news coverage, [they would] be presented with one of these options to engage with,” she said. “We were just so pleased with it and we took it to market, and it was snapped up quite quickly by three of our big retailers.”
The concept caught on with both advertisers and users, reaching 1 million clicks in just six months: “I’m talking actual clicks from swipe to the product added to cart, which really is extraordinary.”
Also extraordinary? The 28.4% engagement rate, which Raath said was so unusually high that she had to triple check it: “We have a higher-than-average engagement rate across our network thanks to targeted audience work, but that’s generally at about 15%,” she said. “So 28.4% really did show a great return to our partners. We were absolutely delighted with these results and the fact that this came from us just trying to have fun in the newsroom in our publisher environment was really exciting.”
Rather than resting on the success of the product, Raath said the mindset at Media24 was to see what else they could do.
One new concept is a gamified experience built around the upcoming Rugby World Cup, which allows users to play the game on their phones, “catching” and “kicking” a rugby ball with their fingers. Players earn points and can submit their details to win a prize; the advertiser receives that information and has a warm lead.
The second creative is a puzzle ad unit. It increased engagement with an ad created in blocks that had to be rearranged to display the ad. “Once you unscrambled that, you unlocked a specific deal or a code that allowed you to shop again,” she said. “Because the user is interacting in a gamified environment, we were able to increase our engagement.
Three big lessons emerged from the experience, according to Raath:
1. Always have fun in mind. This was easy, given that the product was being built to provide users with a fun experience. In changing and challenging times, it can be easy to get stressed and forget to enjoy the journey, and she reminded members not to let tough times take the fun away: “I encourage you to institute an element of fun into your workflow and see what your teams come up with.”
2. Keep engagement at the heart of the solution. Media24 made sure every step engaged the user before moving on to the next step. “What we were able to do with this was to drive users from the top of the funnel just from awareness through to consideration and all the way down to conversion.”
3. Focus on data collection. Data is so important to media companies and their advertising partners, particularly as first-party data becomes more necessary. “What we were able to do here was to incentivise the user giving their information of their own volition to us so that we could potentially re-target them.”