This article is part of a series of interviews that NAI has conducted with the directors of publishers’ Native Ad Studios around the world.
Please reach out if you want to add your Native Ad Studio to the series.
Today we speak with Anna Arvidsson, Head of Bonnier News Brand Studio, part of Bonnier News Sales.
Bonnier News Brand Studio has won several awards during the years and works with branded content for Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s largest morning paper, Expressen, Sweden’s second-largest daily newspaper, Helsingborgs dagblad, Sydsvenskan, and Dagens industri, Sweden’s only financial daily paper.
Anna Arvidsson has a background in PR, marketing, event, sponsorships, and sales. She founded Bonnier News Brand Studio in 2013 — a studio that focuses on insight, strategy, creation, analysis, and distribution. Because, as Anna Arvidsson says, “For me, it’s not all about content. It’s about content combined with intelligent distribution.”
Bonnier News Sales total media reach counts over 5 million readers per week. That’s 72% of the Swedish population aged 16-80.
Interview with Anna Arvidsson as told to NAI.
Setting up the studio
The main objective when we established Bonnier News Brand Studio was to generate new revenue and develop new business models in collaboration with the editorial departments at Bonnier News.
One of the main reasons was the declining demand for display advertising in Sweden. Today, our process addresses our clients’ business objectives, allowing us to gain access to our clients’ full range of stakeholders and budgets.
We now deliver an integrated business solution through insight, strategy, creative – always with guaranteed reach and impact. We’re more than a content studio. We’re the innovation and concept department for some of the biggest newspapers in Sweden. We have our own sales managers, creative strategists, writers, editors, tv producers, analysts, and designers. We’re a one-stop shop.
Our business model is built on six blocks and three different phases.
Phase 1: Insight and Strategy
Phase 2: Creation, Analysis, and Distribution
Phase 3: Follow-up
The organization’s competencies work in these six different blocks. In phase one, our creative strategists collaborate with the analysis team. In phase two, the creative project managers, content managers, and visuals take lead. In the last — but maybe the most important — phase, the analysis team and the project managers present the campaign effects for the client.
We always start the innovation process from the client’s KPIs and define the ambition together. To generate the best idea, we have different methods and workshops, sometimes together with the editorial department.
Once we have defined the idea, the concept’s distribution is formed. A native experience can be a TV series, an article, a campaign site, an explainer video. Anything that reflects the publisher’s own creations and customer’s KPIs.
Today’s business demands specialists with a go-getter attitude. So, I’ve hired competence with different skills which end up in a brilliant mix to serve our clients’ needs. If you’re working with true native, it’s also important that your coworkers know your publishers, even in their sleep.
Selling and measuring native advertising
How we sell native advertising? Storytelling, storytelling, storytelling. If you know your publisher and share the same metrics, you know how to do native that affects your audience.
To get advertisers to buy in on native advertising and convince them to make real stories, you need to guide them, enlighten them, and advise them with transparency.
It’s a mistake to think that the clients always know what they can expect. You can’t change a brand lift with storytelling overnight.
We measure what the clients want us to measure. Most common are read-through, completion rate, and time spent.
It’s a tricky question to answer, whether our content studio is a replacement or add-on to advertising agencies and media buying agencies. Some of the agencies see the benefits of having their own “studios”. Our clients work with us because we own our distribution and we know our readers through our own competencies and the long experience of the editorial journalists. Experience demands hours of working and know-how. That is something that data-driven marketing can never replace.
We always send our clients evaluation forms after the campaign, and we’ve found that 85% of our clients are satisfied with our delivery. 89% answer that they want to work with us again and 94% are impressed with our creative input and output. We have also found out that we need to be better to hold the client’s hand through the entire process. It’s a mistake to think that the clients always know what they can expect. You can’t change a brand lift with storytelling overnight.
Setting the Brand Studio editorial team
Over the past two years, we’ve seen a big change regarding applications, mainly from journalists, and we have recruited both internally and externally to the Brand Studio.
When we need new skills, we always look for brave, digital, social, creative, credible writers, designers, and editors.
The ideal team composition for us consists of an editor in chief, an editor, a project manager, a content manager, and a designer.
Different skills build innovation. Brand Studio has grown by 70 percent since 2013 and recruited creative strategists, production managers, sales managers, analysts and designers. These competencies complement the department’s producers of content in TV and text. They also contribute new insights and ideas to key account managers.
Structure at the studio
The native staff reports to the Brand Studio commercial management, and the Brand Studio’s editorial staff reports to an commercial editorial director.
We label native advertising as an ad (annons) with the sentence “Content from xx (client)” (Innehåll från xx).
If there is internal skepticism, we deal with it by gaining insights from the editors and creating content that actually adds rather than disrupts, and this increases trust in the Brand Studio.
If we produce content for other media platforms? Is that native?
Spend a day in the newsroom. Gather insights, learn the editorial approach and implement on your commercial editorial, so that your native product becomes true native.
If I should pass on any learnings from working with a content studio, it would be:
Recruit skills that are better than yourself.
Dare to become an advisory partner. Don’t be afraid to tell the customer that the story they want to write won’t give them the same effects as the story YOU want to write. You know your readers, they don’t.
Practice on the editorial department’s gathering of insights. Analyze and implement so that your native product becomes true native.
Last but not least, spend a day in the newsroom. Gather insights, learn the editorial approach and implement on your commercial editorial, so that your native product becomes true native.
Photo of Anna Arvidsson by Ole Sporrong.