With 297 million visits and 16.73 million unique users the digital version of the tabloid BILD, which is the most widely circulated newspaper in Germany, is a major media player owned by Axel Springer.
Native advertising is still somewhat new to the German market, but BILD is among the publishers that have taken it on. We spoke to Robert Heesen, Head of BILD Brand Studio Consulting, who is accompanied by Yvonne Beister, Editorial Head and BILD Brand Studio in the photo, about how BILD works with native advertising, successful cases and experiences with Facebook Instant Articles and much more.
The interview was recorded at The 2016 Native Advertising DAYS. Read more about this year’s amazing conference.
Below are highlights from the interview which have been slightly edited for clarity.
BILD’s Brand Studio
“We started one year ago (in 2015, ed.). We are still a pretty small team of six people consisting of journalists, of project management and graphic designers and we do native advertising campaigns for customers from all industries.
After a year we can say we are very happy that we started the studio.
Right now we are very successful in the market and we do a lot of pitches, so after a year we can say we are very happy that we started [the studio] and we are really looking forward to the coming years.”
How BILD created a native campaign for Ford
“We did this campaign for Ford which took almost half a year from the initial discussions. The idea of is to do a quiz on; What kind of car type are you? So after asking several questions in the end some model of a Ford car is the result.
It went live yesterday and is really successful. We already have like 30,000 completed quizzes and it also exemplifies what we do in terms of storytelling. Everything we do in editorial articles, we should also be able to do in native advertising especially infographics, quizzes, every type of content that makes the article a bit more entertaining and fun to read, because what we want to increase is the engagement with the article.
Other brand messages in pre-rolls or TV spots are 30% about the advantages of the product. We have a more subtle message.”
How to create branded content that matches BILD’s brand
“BILD is a tabloid so we tell entertaining stories. It was very important for us to stay within the language of BILD and the pictures of BILD. That is kind of a challenge because the customer has to want [that approach], right?
We try to convince our customers that it will increase performance if we do native advertising the BILD way.
If he doesn’t want it, it’s a problem, but we can say that it will increase the performance if we do [native advertising] the BILD way, and that’s something we try to convince our customers. We are very successful in doing this at the moment, but this remains a challenge over the next years. The customer wants to have more direct link outs or more features of e.g. their car models integrated into the text, but then the story gets a lot less entertaining.”
How to convince advertisers to tell real stories
“Native advertising is not for everyone. If you have a performance campaign where you want to generate leads or sales, then probably native advertising is not the right format for you. If you think in terms of the AIDA funnel (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action, ed.), we are more at awareness and ‘Interest’ side of things, we are not at ‘Action’.
If customers have no budget for brand awareness campaigns, they shouldn’t do native advertising.
That’s something we need to tell the customers. Whenever they want an action, they should do Facebook ads or Google Adwords or something else which will be a better format for them. We try to identify customers that are looking for brand awareness and that want to have certain topics related to them.
Those are the right customers and for that kind of customers, we can create great stories. Nevertheless, we also try to convince people or brands who a more action-oriented about a way to do brand awareness. But if they are not planning this or if they have no budget for it, then they shouldn’t do native advertising.”
Publishers should invest in distribution
“We are certainly looking for ways to get as much distribution as we can, so we don’t only look at Outbrain or Taboola or Facebook but every platform that gives us good quality traffic and where we can get the right customers. Right now we are testing a lot of different services.
You have to over perform in order to make customers rebook native advertising.
I think publishers should invest a lot in distribution because native advertising is a new ad format that is unknown to a lot of customers, so in order to convince them, it’s very important to show them really great numbers.
What I consider as a great number is — at least in Germany — something like six digits. We need good cases and we need a lot of traffic on those stories and to make the case for native advertising as a whole. You have to over perform in order to make customers rebook native advertising. That’s the phase we’re in now.”
BILD’s most important platforms
“It certainly is BILD.de because we have a lot of direct traffic. About 70% of our users come to our homepage; they directly type in BILD.de. But Facebook has become an integral part of branded content campaigns.
Facebook Instant Articles is a very positive experience for us.
Regarding the other platforms we are experimenting but for example, we don’t see a lot of potential in Twitter at the moment. We see more potential in Instagram, but we haven’t had campaigns on those kinds of channels yet.
Facebook Instant Articles is a very positive experience for us. I think they are very suitable for branded content. If you want to earn your advertising dollars it might be beneficial to link out to your home page but as we earn money for generating reach, no matter if it’s on BILD.de or Facebook, it makes sense to work with Instant Articles.”
“We don’t think mobile first, we think story first”
“Mobile is of course very important, but it’s not yet the majority of our traffic. Of course, we optimise for mobile and we see a huge shift to mobile, but it’s not as advanced as in the US, UK or Scandinavian countries. We don’t necessarily think mobile first, we think story first.
The stories are more or less the same it doesn’t really matter [which platform they’re on]. The only thing is that we need to create storytelling elements that work on mobile as well.”
Attracting TV budgets to online native
“Nivea invests a lot in TV commercials and pre-rolls video advertising, they don’t do display, so this was a new customer for us.
They say they are the number one in terms of products for men’s care and saw a potential for growing the market by informing men that they should care a lot more about themselves. They identified BILD as the ideal platform for doing this, so we had a total of three branded stories with different aspects of men’s care and why it makes sense to use some products in order to look great.
Nivea is huge and they’re spending a lot of money on TV commercials so this campaign was only a tiny fraction of their budget.
We got quite a lot of reach for this campaign, but Nivea is huge and they’re spending a lot of money on TV commercials so this campaign was only a tiny fraction of their budget. But we are aiming to make customers happy in order for them to book native advertising in the future, even though it might be a tiny fraction of their budget at the moment.”
Labelling is important for news sites
“Labelling is very important for us because we are a news site, so if we harm this credibility then people would not only not read branded content articles, but they wouldn’t read the editorial stories either and of course we want to prevent that.
Credibility is at the very core of what we do.
We label branded content as an ad within the teaser and within the story so that people can not be mistaken. If some people rush over it, they sometimes don’t see it, but of course, it’s very important for us to make it clear that this is an article that is paid for by the customer because we think credibility is at the very core of what we do.”