Helsingin Sanomat campaign strengthens emotional connection to digital product

By Terhi Vaalavuo and Veera Siivonen

Helsingin Sanomat

Helsinki, Finland

Does knowledge equal understanding? Are data and information equivalent? These were the central questions we at Helsingin Sanomat wanted people to ask themselves when we launched our “The World is Beyond the Headlines” campaign — with the goal of creating a strong emotional connection between subscribers and our digital product.

Through two video ads, one about war and another about inequality, we announced the launch of our updated app and communicated the added value we offer our readers in a world where nearly all data is just one click away. The core idea of the videos was then converted into online, social media, video on demand, and radio. Key objectives of the campaign were to gain more app downloads and online subscribers, and especially to appeal to a younger audience.

Our traditional subscribers love their morning rituals with the newspaper. They have built their own habits, typically consisting of a cup of coffee, some quiet time for themselves before getting busy, and the newspaper.

The emotional connection with print is strong. Digital on the other hand is not yet in that position — an emotional connection with the digital subscription is something we must build.

Building emotional connection and a daily habit among younger digital readers was one key objective of the campaign.
Building emotional connection and a daily habit among younger digital readers was one key objective of the campaign.

We don’t see comments about how our subscribers love their routines with mobile content. But if we want subscribers to grow a strong lifelong bond with reading daily, we need to help them to make that emotional connection, too. 

We wanted to show how mobile can be powerful in telling emotional stories. Important, meaningful stories are emotional and make you think, even on that small screen, and that can help us bring the emotional angle to the digital product. 

This was the first time we focused so heavily on mobile in our brand advertising. It demonstrated us being serious about our digital products — and those products being at the center of what we do.

The content of the films is continuing a line of advertising we started earlier, which highlights deeper understanding.  It is not enough just to read the headlines or gather facts — we encourage people to think and understand also the meaning of the news. 

We chose two difficult themes for the campaign videos: war and inequality. Both of these themes are important, yet readers might feel disconnected from them. We want to tell important stories that are not just a collection of distant facts, but told so the reader is connected with them.

Robots like Siri or Alexa (Iris in the ad) can’t give you a deeper understanding. They can only give you facts. But Helsingin Sanomat goes beyond. 

We launched a new version of our app, which now includes a personalised recommendation view in addition to the main view and the newest view. The recommended articles also appear on the main view in a dedicated position. This is meant to offer readers a more different perspectives on the topics.

We are not pushing readers to their filter bubbles, but actually breaking them by recommending the other view points to the topics. We built into the campaign more tactical ads that cover this renewed app’s new features, which then fit with the serious topics of the brand building films. 

This campaign hit the targets: 48% said the campaign made them think and 40% said it made them feel, both of which are best results in three years of campaign analysis. Also liking and standing out in a positive way were at best from what we have done in recent years. Portraying a reliable news media also scored highest from our campaign, with 42% agreeing (slightly agreeing not included).

The campaign resonated well, especially with the younger audience. The inequality video had an astonishing 54% view though rate, and the war video had a 38% view through rate in YouTube on the second round in the mid-campaign qualitative research. The under 25-year-olds were especially positive about the campaign.

This was very good news for us, as we are going through a repositioning of our brand to gain interest for the younger audience, too. In this campaign we did not try hard to hit the younger crowd, but we were happy to see it continued our positive track with them.

Android app downloads grew 24%, while iOS downloads grew 15%. Our subscription sales peaked while this campaign was on TV, but we also had heavy journalism supporting growth at that time and strong sales efforts. In this case, the goal was to strengthen our brand relevance for our long-term success, and that we definitely did especially with the younger audience.

We are very happy that according to campaign research, the emotional campaign made our audience feel the HS brand is more responsible, sympathetic, and humane.

About Terhi Vaalavuo and Veera Siivonen

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