Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger Medien turned 200 print-only advertisers into digital buyers

By Christian Scherbel

Smartico Smart Ads

Berlin/Sofia, Germany/Bulgaria


When Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger Medien did its annual analysis of how the digital spend of its regional advertisers developed over time, it became apparent that its digital transformation had been very successful for larger accounts and local key accounts.

However, many of its of loyal small- and medium-sized business (SMB) print customers still did not book relevant online budgets — despite having the choice of many digital offerings at different prices and even low entry points.

After various customer interviews, it became clear that — despite all digital offerings — for those customers, online advertising presented specific challenges: 

  • It was still too complex (too many formats, targetings, pricings, KPIs, etc.).
  • It required great banners and landing pages that they often did not have nor did they have the time to create. 
  • Its KPIs were not inherently relevant to them, as brick-and-mortar advertisers need attention on their offers and not clicks on their Web site.
Smart Ads provided a solution that was beneficial to smaller print advertisers who were not yet comfortable with digital.
Smart Ads provided a solution that was beneficial to smaller print advertisers who were not yet comfortable with digital.

With this in mind, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger Medien began looking for a solution so it could do all of the following:

  • Build great banners and landing pages for its longtail advertisers at scale.
  • Evangelise its existing sales reps to finally offer intuitive online products — but in a very efficient manner, as a €100 (US$108) digital campaign needs to be sold in five minutes or less.
  • Increase its CPM on the page with higher-priced local campaigns compared to lower national CPMs or programmatic campaigns.
  • Scale local display ad sales significantly and make more profitable ad revenues.

Taking the smart approach

The solution for this was Smart Ads, which offered the simplest and most intuitive product to introduce local print advertisers to digital.

With Smart Ads, the goal of Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger Medien was to fix all of the following challenges:

  • The banner and landing page creation process.
  • Reader acceptance issues with previously low-quality local digital ads created by small agencies (or by advertisers themselves in Paint or other suboptimal quick-fixes).
  • The bad sales narrative of selling “Web site visitors” and “CTR” to brick-and-mortar advertisers.

With Smart Ads, the goal was to build the ideal digital bundle with every print ad.

The process of transforming print ads into a digital product was simplified through the use of Smart Ads.
The process of transforming print ads into a digital product was simplified through the use of Smart Ads.

Print advertisers that never booked digital before needed to suddenly start booking digital display ads at scale, which accounted for hundreds of new ads per month. With Smartico as a partner, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger Medien started to send every print PDF of a print ad to an FTP, from where Smartico built banners plus landing pages within 24 hours — using both AI and humans.

This included all the data from the print ad, as well as additional information from the homepage, social media profile, or the Google Places entry of the local advertiser. All of this occurred without the advertiser or sales rep having to deliver any additional information.

Print sales reps could now offer the product to every small advertiser, as it does not require any additional efforts on their side.

Thanks to the built-in landing pages, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger Medien could start reporting “time spent on the landing page” back to advertisers instead of “CTR.” This metric was much more intuitive and valuable for local advertisers who had little or no experience in digital advertising.

Immediate benefits

All other results for the other stakeholder were immediately promising, too:

• Readers are accepting the new ads as “local reading stuff,” which is reflected by higher click rates than national campaigns. CTRs of 0.5% and above show great value to local readers.

• Campaign management embraces the solution as CPMs of the “bundles” are higher than programmatic, and all local campaigns are automatically booked into the ad server. On average, the CPM for Smart Ads reached >13 (US$14).

• Sustainability and long-term growth: More revenue comes not only from better upselling rates from existing print customers to Smart Ads, but Smart Ads customers also start converting into digital-only products at far higher price points — making Smart Ads the gateway drug to digital.

About Christian Scherbel

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