“Selling Native Advertising Is Like Seducing a Woman”

Ekstra Bladet is a tabloid paper and the biggest online news site in Denmark which is betting heavily on native advertising for print, online and video. It’s all about pushing the limits of native advertising while staying true to the brand and keeping its trustworthiness says Thomas Stokholm.

We interviewed him at Native Advertising Days 2016 — read more about this year’s amazing conference.


Below are highlights from the interview which have been slightly edited for clarity.

The Penguin theory

“Ekstra Bladet pushes the limits of native advertising as we do with every other area within Ekstra Bladet be it investigative journalism, sport or entertainment. My staff and I work from a theory that we call the ‘Penguin theory’. In some penguin societies, the biggest of the males bang their chests in the mating season. The last penguin standing gets to mate with the females.

But the smaller males run around the bigger males and actually mate with the females. We are that little penguin who try to find new ways. If people go right, we go left. We constantly try to tell ourselves not to go in the same direction as everybody else.”

You should always test the limits of your trustworthiness as a publisher.

Test the limits of your trustworthiness

“You should always test the limits of your trustworthiness as a publisher. It’s all about labelling; tell your audience what you do, why you do it and when you do it. Numerous tests show that the time spent with the well labelled native content actually is longer than all of the other pieces of content we put on our site.”

RELATED: How Advertisers and Publishers Should Deal with the Ethics of Native

Steal budgets from TV

“I’m not sure that the cup of gold is at the end of true native. For us to pick up some major budgets we have to look elsewhere. This could be the entertainment industry where they spend a whole lot of bucks on producing TV series for broadcasting stations. So let’s pick up those budgets and have them go online.”

We will never lend out our brand to somebody else.

Why control is everything

“We will never on Ekstra Bladet lend out — which I’ve heard some of the other media houses have — our brand to somebody else. We won’t give them access to specific elements on our web page in order for them just to fill in content. We have 100% control.

I know the DNA, my staff knows the DNA, our creatives know the DNA, our stat people know the DNA and that’s how our production of native advertising works perfectly.

Good native advertising for the audience of Ekstra Bladet is surprising and it should give you a good laugh. [Ask yourself] would you share it? Would you watch it yourself? And would you comment on it?

On Ekstra Bladet we have had numerous discussion on what would we actually allow as native advertising? Features touch on the news and that’s where it turns into a bit of a grey area. Especially our written native tends to swim into the news department. So we’re very keen on controlling that that doesn’t happen.”

If you control the idea, you control the rest of the process.

If you have the idea, you have the control

“If you have the idea [for a native campaign], if you can persuade the customer or even seduce your customer then you control it. If you control the idea, you control the rest of the process.”

Ekstra Bladet readers love native

“If you look at the hours and the money spent on one piece of native on Ekstra Bladet there’s a tendency that you have better budgets, better time and that you can go more in depth. Your budget will usually be bigger than for “non-native”. So people like it.

It makes me happy that people actually still want the good the good in-depth story and that’s where native can really move some audience for us.”

The biggest challenges in native advertising

“Explaining native advertising is very hard because what is native advertising? At Ekstra Bladet, we haven’t even decided for ourselves. Now if you have a hard time explaining it to your own crew, how can you explain it to your customer? But we’re getting there.

RELATED: How To Sell Native in a New and Better Way

The biggest challenge the market for native advertising has is that we still haven’t decided upon the currencies of native advertising. If somebody invests a hundred thousand euros in a piece of native television or articles what are the KPIs? Is it time spent? Shares? Likes? Page views?”

Media buyers should wake up and smell the coffee

“I think that the professional media buyers better wake up or else the professional media houses like Ekstra Bladet will cut them off.

Media buyers have a really hard task of explaining, why they of all people should be involved in the native advertising process at all?

We might be challenged explaining to advertisers what native advertising is, but the professional media buyers have a really hard task of explaining, why they of all people should be involved in this process at all?

They don’t have the currency, they don’t want to get into it because they don’t have the knowledge and the skills to produce it or have some other agencies produce it. So I invite the professional media buyers to dance — or else I’ll leave them on the bench.”

Advertisers need to trust publishers

“Trust me, [advertisers]. Please trust me. I’m a professional storyteller, I am a journalist educated 25 years ago. I know how the system works. I can promise you that a good story always sells. This area of native advertising might still be a bit fuzzy, but trust me I know.”

“Selling native advertising is like seducing a woman”

“Selling native advertising is like seducing a woman. It’s almost like persuading the advertiser to have an affair because it’s quite a dangerous area to move into for an advertiser as the KPIs are a bit fuzzy, so they have to rely on me seducing them with an idea.

Usually it works if you’re very enthusiastic about your idea.

So seduce them. What would you do if you were to seduce a woman you met in a bar or on Tinder or wherever you met her? What would you do to tell this person sitting next to you, “I’m the one, I have the idea, I can lead you the way, so trust me.” Usually, it works if you’re very enthusiastic about your idea. That will rub off on the advertiser.”

Thomas Stokholm’s 3 best pieces of advice

1) Keep total control as a publishing house over everything from the script, the production itself, the publishing, the time of the publishing, the sharing.

2) Take chances; make mistakes, make them fast and then move on.

3) Always be loyal to the DNA that runs within your media house.

Interview by: Stine Andersen

Foto by: Linda Johansen 

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