While in print, small and mid-sized business (SMB) advertisers are a very relevant source of revenue. But this is also relevant content for readers who actively demand local print ads online. Most of those advertisers don’t appear online.
Comparing the structure of digital advertisers versus print advertisers on major regional news portals, it quickly becomes evident that national advertising for digital is ahead of digital local ads in most news organisations.
But why is that happening? And what do publishers who manage to capture a large portion of regional ad budgets and transfer a decent share of local print advertisers to digital do differently? We looked at more than 100 offerings from Europe to find the “secret sauce” that makes a few offers take off while others do not.
We found four main drivers that make local advertising scale for publishers.
Let’s face it, most local advertisers are just overwhelmed by the complexity of digital advertising. The same goes for a lot of local print sales reps who still have relationships with those clients. Hundreds of formats, cost-per-click (CPCs), cost-per-thousand (CPMs), cost-per-action (CPAs), frequency cappings, targeting options and re-targetings, targeting pixels, cookies, remarketing — all of this complexity might be great for national champions and regional key accounts. But it’s probably not for a restaurant or car dealer whose primary purpose is not getting more traffic on a Web site but getting more people in the store.
And let’s face it: Most regional publishers did not do enough to make booking online ads fundamentally more understandable for those customers. They just downsized the number of ad impressions compared to large key accounts. Local advertisers still have tons of options for a 20,000-ad-impression campaign. Of course, this then creates a lot of overhead in campaign management (see the next point on efficiency).
But what worked? Fewer options: One simple bundle as a yes/no to every print ad instead of a new sales process. One bundle with banner and landing page creation with one fixed set of ad impressions in the exact regional targeting that this advertiser already booked in print.
If that simple model for approximately US$100 doesn’t offer enough, then we can still upsell to packages for US$500, but not for the smallest clients.
The learning here is that most local clients want a simple bundle that works and already incorporates the most important “best practices” of a digital ad: creative, a decent number of ad impressions, good targeting, and local success.
Many local print sales organisations are not best friends with the national online campaign management in their company. But why is this?
They are bringing in far too little revenue for far too much complexity. Selling every local advertiser with just a few thousand ad impressions with different targeting and format options will potentially increase the revenue per customer. Still, it will immediately be lost in operational overhead to get all those different types of campaigns booked and served.
Successful publishers instead went back to a straightforward bundle with one ad format, one clear positioning (ideally including the local home pages and not the main homepage), and one targeting initiative that could be pre-booked in the ad server and replicated in the ad server as a template without additional manual work.
One of the many options was tag-in-tag campaigns where only one campaign for “local ads in region 1” was booked in the ad server.
We learned that for most local advertisers, it is not intuitive to get the print ad creation as part of the sales process (paid and unpaid). However, in digital, they are on their own creating banners and landing pages that convert.
The same goes for communicating a gross reach in print versus net reach online and pure cryptic clicks and click rates online. This does not feel like one product that captures regional reach for regional advertisers, but like two separate worlds — where, in print, “attention” is sold while online, it is just “clicks.”
A few tactics that made it much more intuitive for local advertisers at the publishers we looked at included making the currency and billing as close to print as necessary, but the design and ad serving were as digital as possible.
What worked very well for a lot of publishers was to form bundles of banner creation and one fixed price for banner, landing page, and regionally targeted impressions at exclusive spots on the news portal. Price of those bundles then depended on the size of the print ad.
Larger advertisers need more attention (ad impressions) than smaller print advertisers. Ideally, there’s always only one pair of a print ad size and an online equivalent. And there needs to be something special for the advertiser who likes to see their print ad and show it to friends and customers online.
One additional spot on the regional pages where the ad is shown is in a banderole and can be found by clicking through the banderole instead of hitting “reload” 100 times to see their ad — most of the time leaving them quite disappointed.
Our learning on this front is don’t communicate clicks or, even worse, click rates (CTR). Local advertisers don’t understand them. Local sales representatives can’t explain them with enough context. Even then, it becomes a long discussion why, for example, 0.5% click rates are far above average and good while the local advertiser only hears that 99.5% of users didn’t click.
Local print advertisers need attention on their offerings, and successful publishers translate that to digital. And “click” is not attention, as we see in local campaigns on Facebook and others where bounce rates are through the roof when buying cheap clicks. But attention is time spent on the offering, like on the landing page, slider interaction when using carousel ads, scroll depth and button clicks on landing pages, and more.
Changing the sales narrative from clicks to trackable attention metrics unlocks potential with advertisers, especially with local sales reps. This creates an excellent story for online that is not only about clicks, because clicks on Facebook and Google will always be cheaper. The local newspaper is about quality and intuitive communication to prove that point.
One crucial argument is to do landing pages for local advertisers instead of losing clicks to an external page and never knowing what is happening there — or, even worse, discussing why the local advertiser needs a relaunch.