“The balance between online and offline is recovering”

Is there still room for manoeuvre on the advertising market? To what extent advertisers look critically at digital advertising? And what about print? Willem Albert Bol, Creative Director at De Persgroep, talks with Kenneth Bejerholm Madsen, Ben Jones and Lauren van der Heijden - commercial director respectively in Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands - and, together, they look to the future.

William-Albert Bol: Is it true that the advertising market is barely growing or even slightly shrinking?

Ben Jansen: “We no longer expect exponential growth. The market has become mature, also in online advertising. The shift to online advertising has had its consequences. There has been a strong consolidation in recent years. This was necessary, for example, to finance the transformation. I believe that this consolidation will continue in the years to come.”

W-A Bol: How do you explain the stagnant or shrinking marketing budgets?

Lauren van der Heijden: “The need for effective marketing resources still remains high among advertisers, but I feel that they often lean too heavily on a last click strategy. We try to convince them this can sometimes be a risky gamble, and that they should continue to stake on their familiar communication tools. The marketing laws have not changed. A company like Coolblue clearly stakes on new and familiar media and you see that they are very successful.”

“Ook in Denemarken zien we de druk op de marketingbudgetten toenemen, maar tegelijk is er meer vraag naar kwaliteit.”

Kenneth Bejerholm Madsen, Sales Director De Persgroep Denemarken

Kenneth Bejerholm Madsen: “In Denmark too, we witness an intensifying pressure on marketing budgets, but at the same time there is more demand for quality. I think there are a lot of great opportunities for De Persgroep as a classic publisher with loads of experience.”

Ben Jansen: “In my opinion, this quality has several dimensions. We are a company that delivers high-quality content tailored to the local markets in which we operate. This has a strong impact on the brand safety guarantee and the context that advertisers are looking for. Beside that fact, there is also an ever stronger demand for uniform quality standards as well as reliable measurements and data on the online market. Thanks to the nature of our metier (informing and entertaining) and our years of expertise with standards and measurements on the classic advertising market, De Persgroep has a big edge in this area. On a digital level, many customers are still a little bit searching in 2019, but we are gradually coming to a turning point. Advertisers have an increasingly better knowledge on which digital investments really have an impact. Moreover, every day there is more intelligence on the market helping advertisers in that matter.”

W-A Bol: Today, do you see remarkable differences between the various market segments in the way they approach the market?

Lauren van der Heijden: “I see a broader trend. More advertisers are wondering aloud about the added long-term value of their investment in Google. Prices are systematically increasing but have a limited impact on the branding objectives. That is good news for us. Fortunately, marketers can still appreciate the real value of branding.”

W-A Bol: What role can we play in a good costumer journey?

Ben Jansen: “A big part, because we play on the whole spectrum. We reach 85 percent of the Flemish people, every day more than once. Online we connect those audiences across all our platforms. This allows us to add a lot of value to the entire communication funnel. This strength is in line with the regained awareness that online and offline both have value and reinforce each other. More and more international research is available (Mark Ritson, Peter Field & Les Binet , Byron Sharp) that helps us to find the right balance.”

W-A Bol: Is that digital market, with the biggest growth potential today, really mature?

Lauren van der Heijden: “I think so. For advertisers and media agencies, the harsh dichotomy between print and digital is fading. Of course there are still some outlaws here and there. I also see that there is still a substantial surplus of advertisement on many sites with very mediocre content. They still pick up a piece of the online cake. For a company like De Persgroep with such qualitative titles there is still quite some potential.”

Kenneth Bejerholm Madsen: “I completely agree with the fact that today’s market is quite mature and fairly transparent. The big tech players have a strong market position and, to some extent, they also define their own category.”

Ben Jansen: “In terms of resources, the advertising market has indeed matured, but there is still a lot to do about the regulation of the online market. In Belgium, the Union of Belgian Advertisers has written a charter about what those rules should contain in an online environment. That is an important signal. Now the advertisers and the media agencies also have to verify those rules. In that, I see an important task for our company. We must play a pioneering role. Our quality standards in online are particularly high. The biggest challenge will be to get the entire industry on the same wavelength.”

W-A Bol: Is it true that the big tech companies have lost a bit of their lustre? And can local publishers benefit from it?

Lauren van der Heijden: ” If they lost a bit of impact and appearance, they only have to blame themselves, because they have ignored the privacy of their users for years. At the same time, we should not exaggerate: advertisers still spend loads of money on Facebook. I think that we should primarily focus on our own strengths: for example, what can we offer advertisers on brand safety in a qualitative news environment?”

“Het is extreem belangrijk om kwalitatieve data te hebben. Maar ik zie het eerder als een randvoorwaarde om adverteerders effectiever te laten adverteren, dan als een product waarmee je geld verdient.”

Lauren van der Heijden, Sales Director De Persgroep Nederland

W-A Bol: It has been said for years: data are the new gold. Do we finally start to earn real money with these data?

Lauren van der Heijden: It is extremely important to have qualitative data, but I see it more as a trigger to allow advertisers to advertise more effectively than as a stand-alone product that makes you earn money.”

W-A Bol: As a company you can already have made the digital shift internally, but is the market following that path? Do advertisers know what we really stand for today?

Ben Jansen: “Of course they know it. Although our partners work in different sectors (retail , banking, car, energy, FMCG…) , the challenges are very similar for each of us. When we make the digital switch towards the surfer, the viewer and the listener, the advertisers will follow too. They realize that in addition to the scope, the context and the environment must also be right. In Belgium, our online advertising revenues from news media are already higher compared to those from print. I am very optimistic about the fact that we have been so successful in making that transformation. I think that the advertisers clearly see the scope of our transformation and what we can do for them as a local partner.”

Lauren van der Heijden: “Aiming high on segments with a high growth potential is firmly promoted and supported in this company. The results of these efforts are now visible in the numbers in the Netherlands. We are growing on the advertising market, against the trend, and video is also growing exponentially. We are really seen as an innovative market leader.”

Kenneth Bejerholm Madsen: “I notice that in Denmark we are often put aside by advertisers as a traditional newspaper publisher. We can only successfully counter that perception when our partnership with those advertisers is digital enough. Additionally we still have to market ourselves even more as an important digital player, but we are well on track. Our growth in digital revenues was spectacular in 2018. ”

The new account manager is a marketer

Digitalizing also means working differently. “At De Persgroep in Denmark, the client managers work closely together with specialists in, for example, programmatic trading and native advertising, in order to deliver the best solutions to our clients. Today, you have to give advice across all platforms”, says Kenneth Bejerholm Madsen.
In Belgium, publishing and broadcasting activities are integrated, which does not exclude that some teams can be dedicated to one particular activity. “Focus is important”, says Ben Jansen. “But the focus is increasingly on marketing audiences rather than products or media. The surfer, viewer and listener are profiled and marketed as an audience. This is how it really works in an online environment.”
A similar sound is heard from the Dutch perspective. “Our former account manager actually became a full-fledged marketer who seeks out the ideal customized solution in collaboration with the advertisers. And, based on that information, a multidisciplinary team of product specialists and strategists is then composed”, explains Lauren van der Heijden.

“Online we reach 33 percent of the Flemish people every day. These numbers will continue to grow until we reach as many people online as offline every day.”

Ben Jansen, Sales Director Medialaan-dPP

Are the big tech players keeping the sales directors awake at night?

Last year, in the Netherlands, De Persgroep founded NL Profiel, a joint data service with Sanoma and TMG. “Our intention is to create together more valuable data profiles and segments for our advertisers so they can make an optimal use of the data made available by these three providers of quality news”, says Lauren van der Heijden. “I am convinced that a company like De Persgroep has to bet on those own strengths, and not worry so much about the actions of the major tech players.”
Ben Jansen : “To be successful online, you need three important ingredients: excellent data, a large and qualitative range and superior ad tools. If this does not work on your own, you can indeed better join forces with other media companies.”
Jansen expects a consolidation of the market. “In Belgium there will only be room for a few large local players. Today we reach 85 percent of all Flemish people with our media, but online only 33 percent. Those 33 percent need to grow until we reach as many people online as offline. Partnerships can be part of the solution.”
Kenneth Bejerholm Madsen: “For now, I still do not see the need for a collective data platform with several publishers in Denmark. If you are good enough, you should chiefly base your actions on your own strengths.”

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